Ask Jurgen Klopp, and he’ll tell you that the TV broadcasters run English football, not the FA or any other organisation.
That’s because his side, much in-demand with the likes of Sky Sports and BT Sport, often find themselves playing on a Wednesday evening in the Champions League and then again on Saturday lunchtime in the Premier League.
He may or may not have a point, depending upon your opinion, but the truth is that the media giants do have a considerable say on the domestic football environment – particularly in an age where fans, broadly speaking, are still not allowed back on the terraces.
So you have to feel some sympathy for clubs in France’s Ligue 1 who, financially impoverished by coronavirus, thought something of a lifeline was heading their way with the huge broadcast deal signed with Mediapro and BeIN Sports, which would have paid top-flight outfits a cool €3.25 billion over four seasons.
It’s the second biggest TV deal in European football, and would have secured the future for many French sides who, unlike PSG, don’t have the financial clout of an oil sheikh to call upon.
But now the deal has fallen through, with Mediapro only able to make three months’ worth of payments before reneging on the agreement. It has left French football high and dry, seeking an emergency TV deal from Canal Plus that will pay less than the last time the broadcaster held the contract.
A Sorry Tale of Ineptitude
When Mediapro had attempted to sign a similar deal with Serie A a few years ago, the agreement was never agreed as the firm could not offer appropriate guarantees as to their financial viability.
Unfortunately, the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) – which is French football’s version of the Football Association – did not ask for a similar guarantee, and that was a scenario that the former Nice President Gauthier Ganaye warned about all the way back in 2018 when talks had just started.
“We could end up in some serious cash situation for some clubs, so that’s why I really hope the league took all the guarantees and the executives at the league did their work very diligently, to make sure there is no problem further down the line, because that could cause massive trouble to French football,” he said.
Sadly, Ganaye’s worst fears were to be realised.
That became evident when Mediapro started charging €25 a month for their subscription service, which would include more than 30 Ligue 1 matches and Champions League and Europa League games.
A more than fair price for the consumer, you might think, but remember that to even turn a profit Mediapro would have to sell at least four million subscriptions. They did not, and soon they unravelled.
The outfit deferred on their second scheduled payment in October, and they desperately tried to renegotiate the deal with a 25% discount given that bars and restaurants were shut in the country – affecting the success of their advertising.
Telefoot, the subscription service, was forced to close, although viewers can still watch games until a new TV deal is agreed.
You may recall that the LFP chose to end the 2019/20 season early, in contrast to other top European leagues which returned after a period of lockdown in the summer. The financial losses will continue to be harshly felt, and they will be hoping that the Canal Plus deal can be signed sooner rather than later to ensure their long term survival.