UEFA to ‘evolve’ its business model with historic sales and marketing tender
By Paul Nicholson
13 October – UEFA has launched an open tender for a partner to market the commercial rights to its men’s club competitions in what the EU governing body sees as an ‘evolution’ of its approach to marketing and the sale of properties.
Last year, UEFA reported € 2.73 billion in revenue from its men’s club competitions – primarily the Champions League and Europa League – making this the most lucrative sales deal in world football and eclipsing FIFA revenues.
UEFA generates 90% of its income from men’s club football. Since the evolution of the Champions League, commercial rights have been managed by TEAM Marketing. The new rights sale contract covers the 2024-2027 cycle, UEFA said in a statement posted on its website.
“This tendering process aims to maximize the significant business opportunities offered by the new post-2024 format for UEFA club competitions in the future media and sponsorship landscape,” said UEFA.
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 “provision of account management and associated services”.
Established in 1991, TEAM Marketing has had an exclusive business partnership with UEFA for its club competitions and has been the driving force behind the phenomenal growth of the Champions League. TEAM only works on UEFA club competitions as part of its deal with the European governing body and has done so through a long-term contract that expires in 2024.
The tender for the rights will trigger a sports rights agency frenzy around performing rights that have never been tendered before. While TEAM will obviously try to keep its rights – and they will be difficult to dislodge with their track record of achievements – we can expect an interest from the major players in sports agencies 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 made and industry insiders believe that if the contract moves away from TEAM, TEAM staff should probably be debauched to travel with him.
What seems more likely is that UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) – ECA will inevitably play an important role in decision-making as it is their clubs that generate the money for the UEFA – will look for a situation where the rights representation becomes more of a joint venture with in-house expertise taking care of the core functions, but working with one or more agencies.
An industry insider told Insideworldfootball that “completely changing agencies comes with a lot of risks. What you can expect are the clubs (via ECA’s representation in UEFA – PSG and Veine Sports’ Nasser Al-Khelaifi are on the UEFA board) to get better control as part of evolution. UEFA will have to work with that, but it will mean that once clubs have enough control they will have a harder time questioning.
It has been suggested that a smarter move for agencies might be to come up with a bridging deal to help UEFA get 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 start in the second quarter of 2022, more than two years before the start of the competition cycle, ”said the UEFA press release.
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