By Paul Nicholson
October 13 – UEFA has issued an open tender for a partner to market the commercial rights to its men’s club competitions in what the European governing body says is an ‘evolution’ of its approach to marketing and sales of the properties.
Last year UEFA reported €2.73 billion in revenue from its men’s club competitions – essentially the Champions League and Europa League – making the sales contract easily the most lucrative in world football and dwarfing FIFA’s revenues.
UEFA generates 90% of its revenues from the men’s club game. Since the evolution of the Champions League commercial rights have been managed by TEAM Marketing. The new rights sales contract is for the 2024-27 cycle, said UEFA in a statement on its website.
“This tender process seeks to maximise the significant commercial opportunities available from the new post-2024 format for the UEFA club competitions in the future media and sponsorship landscape,” said UEFA.
The rights include Champions League, Europa League, the new Europa Conference League, UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Youth League. As well as sales they cover contracts for “the provision of account management and associated services”.
Set up in 1991, TEAM Marketing has held had 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’s club competitions as part of its agreement with the European governing body and have done so via a long term contract that expires in 2024.
The tender to for the rights will spark a sports rights agency frenzy around the representation rights that have never before been offered to tender. While TEAM will obviously try to retain their rights – and they will be hard to dislodge with their track record of achievement – interest can be expected from the big sports agency players including IMG, Lagardere, Infront and Mediapro.
While the interest will be wide and varied, realistically there are few that could deliver at the level TEAM have done and industry insiders reckon that if the contract moved away from TEAM then likely TEAM staff would need to be poached to travel with it.
What seems more likely is that UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) – the ECA will inevitably have a significant role in the decision making as it is their clubs that generate the money for UEFA – will look for a situation where rights representation becomes more of a joint venture with in-house expertise handling core functions, but working with an agency or agencies.
One industry insider told Insideworldfootball that “changing agency altogether is loaded with risk. What you can expect to see is clubs (via the ECA representation at UEFA – PSG’s and vein Sports’ Nasser Al-Khelaifi is on UEFA’s board) getting greater control as part of the evolution. UEFA will have to work with this but it will mean that once clubs have enough control they will find it harder to question anymore.”
It was suggested that a smarter move for agencies might be to pitch for a transition contract to help get UEFA to where they think they want to be.
“The Request For Proposal (RFP) is open to qualified organisations with knowledge and expertise to deliver such services. The sales process to commercial partners is anticipated to start in the second quarter of 2022, more than two years before the start of the competitions cycle,” said UEFA’s press release.
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