UEFA has explained its move to centralise media rights for national-team matches at a forum in Manchester.
The General Secretary of European football's governing body, Gianni Infantino, and the marketing director of UEFA, Guy-Laurent Epstein, presented the concept at the Soccerex European Forum in the English city.
"This will have a seismic effect on the football landscape," Mr Infantino told the audience at the forum on Wednesday. "It is all about the promotion of national-team football, and about giving more stability to national associations.
"As was announced at the UEFA Congress [in Paris] on 22 March last year, all 53 [UEFA] member national associations have agreed to centralise the rights of [FIFA] World Cup qualifying and [UEFA] European Championship qualifying matches, starting in 2014, and ahead of UEFA EURO 2016."
UEFA's view is that the move to centralisation of media rights for national-team matches should enable the national associations to make more money from their qualifying games, and ensure stable revenues from the qualifying phase, as revenues will be disconnected from the draw results. It will also reinforce the identity of the competitions concerned, creating genuine 'national-team nights'.
"To see the benefits of such a centrally managed competition, just look at the [UEFA] Champions League," Mr Infantino continued. "With a single point of sale, media partners do not have to run after every single member association to purchase the rights. Branding and positioning are also crucial – while it will also bring more revenue to European associations. Europe's biggest associations have realised that, all together, we are stronger than the sum of 53 parts."
Guy-Laurent Epstein, meanwhile, gave further insight into the commercial side of the project. "Our 'Week of Football' concept is a key element with regard to commercial exploitation of centralised media rights, as it is creating value for something that didn't exist before," he said. "It's offering the possibility for broadcasters to cover matches across a full week – most importantly at a time when no other football is being played.
"The objective is for all matches to be available in all territories, which sounds ambitious – but we actually already do it every other week with the [UEFA] Champions League," Mr Epstein went on. "We are planning to go out on tender with the media rights in the next couple of weeks, inviting agencies and broadcasters to bid for those rights. We will be very pragmatic in the way we approach it, and we want to make sure that all the actors in the market have an opportunity to bid for rights, on a global or local basis. We will consider the offers with our key objectives in mind, which are to offer the best promotion platform in each country for the qualifying matches, and to optimise, if not maximise, the revenues."
Echoing these positive sentiments was a fellow participant in the session, Denni Strich, marketing director of the German Football Association (DFB). "I'm hopeful this is a great deal for all the associations," he said. "All the smaller federations of course said OK – and though the German national team is already a strong brand in itself, this is a question of solidarity.
"With this project, with UEFA and all the associations working together," he added, "we can develop a really strong footballing brand, creating more value for the fans, the media partners and the associations."
Niall Sloane, ITV's director of sport, participated in the session and emphasised from his side the appeal of national-team football to broadcasters.
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