Saudi Arabia bidding for Premier League rights could benefit everyone!

The Takeover of Newcastle United rattles on, and each day seems to be on a loop of ‘Green Lights’, ‘Red Flags’, ‘Piracy’ and ‘Could be close’. The main sticking point for the Amanda Staveley led consortium, where PIF from Saudi Arabia will take a controlling stake, has come under scrutiny due to possible piracy issues within the Saudi state.

However an article in the Mirror states that Saudi Arabia could bid in the next round of bids for Premier League TV rights in the region. The rights at the moment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are owned by Qatar’s beIN Sports, and who are the channel seeking recompense for the piracy issues.

If Saudi were to bid for the rights to show live Premier League football in the region, it could theoretically start a bidding war between them and beIN Sports, who would not want to lose such a lucrative deal. In terms of what that means for the league, it would mean an influx of extra money. At the moment beIN’s deal with the Premier League runs until the end of the 2021/22 season, a deal you would assume is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the Premier league, so any deal would not come into effect until then and would possibly have to better the one currently held by beIN.

Daniel Geey outlines in his book ‘Done Deal’ how it all works, specifically on a foreign basis. In it he writes, “The Premier League negotiates broadcasting deals, usually on a country to country basis. Companies who wish to bid for rights receive an invitation to tender.”

He goes on to add, “Usually, for each rights cycle, the Premier League will identify the largest countries and sometimes prioritise deals in order of approximate value or geopolitical significance”

No doubt the Premier League when bidding opens contact both beIN as current rights holders and Saudi, whichever station they will use, as well as possible other bidding countries will be invited to bid, for what seems like sole rights in the MENA region.

This could open the Premier League to a new avenue for income for TV rights in the region. If two conflicting parties are bidding for rights, meaning one party may be left without live Premier League to watch legally, could the Premier League not run a similar situation to the one they have set up in the UK?

Currently Sky and BT bid for blocks of games, being able to have sole rights to show games at certain times, and a specific number of games. Currently Sky have more games to choose from, and have Super Sunday and Monday Night Football. Could a similar approach be set up in MENA?

It could in theory stop any issues of piracy (in regards to Premier League games, not on the whole) as both states would be able to bid for a limited number of ‘blocks’, so there is no monopoly with coverage. It could also see an increase of money come into the Premier League, which would benefit every club in the league, and may (I’m guessing on this bit) increase parachute payments for those clubs that are relegated.

Another option which has been put to me, is taking Saudi away from the MENA block of TV rights, and allowing them to bid for coverage solely in their country, which again could suit all parties.

The money from foreign TV rights is shared equally between clubs, so an increase in revenue from one region, could increase the revenue for clubs as TV money are distributed. It could also come as a help to clubs who could still be feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, if it is still effecting clubs in a couple of years time.

The next round of rights are not due to start until the 2022/23 season, with an assumption that bidding will start next year. So we are at least a year away from seeing how it could be effected, but another player in the game can only be good for the Premier League and its member clubs.

On a side note, Daniel Geey’s book is a brilliant read, and goes through everything in regards the money side of football, including takeovers! If that side of the game interests you, definitely a book you need to read!

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