Premier League Future unclear after Premier League clubs fail to find resolution on TV rights • Clubs met to discuss distribution of overseas TV income
• Increasing division between so-called big six and the rest
The future direction of the Premier League remains uncertain as a crucial meeting between the division’s clubs ended without resolution.
Representatives of the 20 Premier League clubs gathered at a hotel in London’s Mayfair on Wednesday to discuss changing the way in which overseas television income is distributed, covering £1bn of annual revenue and a power struggle between the league’s so-called big six and the rest.
In a statement the Premier League confirmed the meeting had ended without agreement. “Premier League clubs today met and discussed the future development of the League. Clubs unanimously agreed to adjourn the meeting to allow further discussion.”
The current arrangement, in place since the Premier League came into existence 25 years ago, distributes overseas television revenue equally between all clubs. A new proposal, submitted by the executive chairman, Richard Scudamore, would see 35% of the money distributed according to league position. It is understood that this proposal was not put to a vote before the adjournment.
According to the Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, the meeting was conducted in a “cordial” atmosphere, but there is an increasing division between Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and the rest. Those six clubs believe their names persuade broadcasters across the world to buy rights to the Premier League. The rest, particularly those clubs relatively new to the division, point to the competitive nature of the league as being its real selling point.
These positions are not easily retractable and both sides can claim to have some form of leverage in negotiations. For the six it is the threat of a possible breakaway, leaving the Premier League to form a European Super League (a threat that also dates back at least 25 years). For the rest of the league they can bargain safe in the knowledge that any adjustment to the rules would require a two-thirds majority vote.
Both sides are, however, in agreement about the increasing importance of overseas broadcast revenue to balance sheets. The meeting had been mooted to be the last before negotiations begin on a new round of domestic TV rights, with Sky and BT once again expected to spend billions. But growth is expected to be lower than the 70% achieved for the last contract, while overseas rights continue to rise sharply.
A compromise on foreign income still looks likely, and another meeting of the clubs is expected in the next month.
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