By Paul Nicholson
June 30 – Just as Serie A looked to have repaired bridges with beIN Sports for its broadcast rights in the Middle East and Africa, the league’s chief executive Luigi De Servio has surprisingly cast doubts on a potential deal brokered by AS Roma that could bring the league and the broadcaster back into alignment.
With the relationship between Serie A’s administration and beIN Sports having been at a sub-zero temperature, AS Roma’s Dan Friedkin stepped in to attempt to bring beIN coming back to the rights table, on behalf of leading clubs and restore, at least in part, a previous deal worth $130 million a year.
The move basically circumvented De Servio who, rather than accept that the league is suddenly back at the negotiating table meaningfully with the region’s biggest broadcast buyer, chose to write to AS Roma chief executive Pietro Berardi.
In a letter seen by Insideworldfootball, De Servio asks Berardi“on the basis of what title and under what mandate AS Roma has “negotiated” the license in question.”
He then goes on to issue a stunning rebuke to one of his leading clubs saying that “negotiations parallel to those of statutory bodies by anyone conducted or in any case, directly and / or indirectly, known and / or supported, as well as detrimental to the prerogatives of the competent subjects, are harmful:
- for the collective interest of the Associates of the League;
- for the credibility of the processes established by Legal externally:
- for the very structure of the League which sees its statute violated, isn’t it? Delegitimized its organization chart and its internal rules of operation”
It is a remarkable letter when taking into context the loss of $130 million annually to Serie A caused by the original dispute that came under De Servio’s leadership.
That rift was caused when the Italians opted to play their Supercoppa in Saudi Arabia at the height of the piracy by Saudi-supported beoutQ of beIN Sports. beIN held exclusive rights that had been acquired legitimately and at a premium.
The dispute was at the height of the Saudi Arabia blockade of Qatar and became very much part of the soft politics of that dispute as the Saudis sought to bring pressure on their World Cup noisy neighbours Qatar and its dominant regional broadcast business beIN Group.
Serie A’s move to take the Saudi cash for the Supercoppa hosting, not surprisingly infuriated beIN Sports who eventually terminated their $130 million a year agreement for the exclusive rights in the region to Serie A.
The dispute not only drive a wedge between beIN Sports and Serie A but was also generally damaging for all sports rights holders who were struggling to protect their rights and their broadcast partners from the beoutQ piracy.
Against this background Serie A lost all rights income from the region for two years.
When the latest rights process began beIN Sports were initially not interested, however, with the clubs taking it on themselves to talk directly to broadcaster and circumvent their own league representatives, beIN Sport warmed towards Italian football
De Servio, having already lost the league $130 million a year, with his letter to Berardi now looks hell bent on losing another $100 million, the figure that has been suggested beIN are prepared to return as part of a multi-year deal (variously reported at $28 million a year).
beIN aren’t the only rights buyer in the MENA market, but they have long been the biggest, and they have a reputation for paying that some of their local rivals haven’t had.
Negotiations are continuing this week with the Abu Dhabi Sports Channel reportedly interested in the regional rights.
They might get them but not before De Servio has scored one of the most spectacular own-goals by a major league chief executive in sports broadcast sales history.
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