Earlier this week BT proudly announced that they had paid an eye watering £1.18 billion for exclusive rights to Champions League and Europa League football from 2018 to 2021, a 32 per cent increase on what they are currently paying.
The new deal gives BT complete exclusivity to the two UEFA competitions, meaning that free to air channels will not even be able to show highlights of matches, as ITV do under the current arrangement.
Of course, it is BT’s customers who will ultimately pay for this. BT have already announced that the cost of their broadband and phone packages will rise by as much as 6 per cent in April. In addition BT broadband customers, who have until now received the BT Sport channels for free, will have to pay a monthly fee from August.
BT customers aren’t the only ones left feeling short changed. Low audience figures have led to Champions League sponsors complaining about lack of exposure. Sky have also seen low viewing figures for their live coverage of English Premiership games, with some industry reports saying that audiences are down by 20 per cent.
Increasing numbers of football fans, particularly tech savvy youngsters, are now bypassing Sky and BT to view games live for free on their PCs courtesy of illegal streaming services.
It therefore seems a little surprising that BT were willing to pay such a high price for European football when the evidence seems to be suggesting that the appetite for football on pay TV is diminishing, particularly among younger audiences. However BT obviously believe that enough people will be willing to hand over their hard earned cash in order to keep Europe’s leading footballers in the luxury which they have come to expect.
When you think about it, what this really all amounts to is simply a massive wealth redistribution scheme. Working class football fans, many of them on low or fixed incomes, give their money to the large global corporations and Middle East Royal families who now seem to own most of Europe’s leading football clubs. Taking money from the poor and giving it to the obscenely rich, welcome to modern football!