By Paul Nicholson
Oct.13 – UEFA has launched an open tender for a partner to market the commercial rights to its men’s club competitions in what the European governing body calls an “evolution” of its approach to marketing and the sale of properties.
Last year, UEFA brought in €2.73bn in revenue from its men’s club competitions – essentially the Champions League and Europa League – making the deal by far the most lucrative in world football and eclipsing FIFA’s revenue.
UEFA derives 90% of its revenue from men’s club football. Since the evolution of the Champions League, the commercial rights have been managed by TEAM Marketing. The new rights sale contract concerns the 2024-27 cycle, UEFA said in a statement posted on its website.
“This tender process aims to maximize the significant commercial opportunities offered by the new post-2024 format for UEFA club competitions in the future media and sponsor landscape,” UEFA said.
The rights include the Champions League, the Europa League, the new Europa Conference League, the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Youth League. In addition to sales, they cover contracts for “account management and related services”.
Established in 1991, TEAM Marketing has entered into an exclusive commercial partnership with UEFA for its club competitions and has been the driving force behind the phenomenal growth of the Champions League. TEAM only work on UEFA club competitions under their agreement with the European governing body and have done so via a long-term contract which expires in 2024.
The bidding for the rights will set off a frenzy from sports rights agencies over performance rights that have never been offered for bidding. While TEAM will obviously try to retain their rights – and they will have a hard time dislodging with their record of achievement – we can expect interest from the big players in the sports agency including IMG, Lagardère, Infront and Mediapro.
While the interest is wide and varied, realistically there are few that could deliver to the level that TEAM has done and industry insiders believe that should the contract veer away from TEAM, TEAM personnel should probably be poached to travel with him.
What seems more likely is that UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) – the ECA will inevitably play an important role in the decision-making as it is their clubs that generate the money for the UEFA – will seek a situation where rights representation becomes more of a joint venture with in-house expertise taking care of core functions, but working with an agency or agencies.
An industry insider told Insideworldfootball that “changing agencies completely is fraught with risk. What you can expect to see is that clubs (via the ECA representation at UEFA – PSG’s Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Vein Sports sit on UEFA’s board) get greater control as part of the move UEFA will have to work with that, but it will mean that once the clubs will have enough control, they will find it more difficult to question.
It has been suggested that a smarter move for the agencies could be to offer a transition deal to help get UEFA to where they think they want to be.
“The Request for Proposals (RFP) is open to qualified organizations with the knowledge and expertise to provide such services. The sales process to business partners is expected to begin in Q2 2022, more than two years before the start of the cycle. competitions,” read the UEFA press release.
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