The European Championships is, for my money, far superior to the World Cup, or any other international competition for that matter. It is a perfect partner to the UEFA Champions League; the greatest club competition in the world. Made up of the sixteen best nations in the fifty-four member Federation, the standard is so consistently high, that the competition almost invariably hums along from the first match.
So, naturally, they’re going to bugger it up next time by expanding the participant roster by 50% to allow almost half the UEFA membership to qualify; effectively guaranteeing places for a bunch of no hopers. This year one Group (‘of death’) has four nations together who are all in the top ten FIFA rankings. You won’t get that again. Next time, in 2016, there will be 24 nations competing; more matches; lower standards; less real competition from the get-go.
People will say: ‘It’s all about the money, though, isn’t it?’. More matches = more TV money; higher sponsorship and commercial values; greater ticketing revenues etc. But it is also about national pride. In a parliament of fifty-four members, the smaller nations of UEFA are numerous, and they want a fifty-fifty chance of getting their day in the sun. They’re not likely to qualify for a World Cup are they?
So what are the Euros worth in cold, hard cash these days? We don’t know the whole story for 2012 yet, but the competition should produce a significant rise on the values of the previous one in 2008.
According to the excellent football finance blog, ‘Swiss Ramble’, when you combine the broadcast and commercial rights, plus some ticketing revenue, the 2008 Euros produced an income for UEFA around one billion euros. The total revenue from the event rose to €1.4 billion in the final analysis; considerably up on the €854 million produced in Portugal, 2004.
Significant though these numbers are, they represent a mere 20% of UEFA’s income from competitions. The big, sugar daddy is of course the Champions League – a highly nutritious annual diet (compared to the once-every-four-years feast of the Euros) – which delivers €1.14 billion pa. It may soon produce values equal to the Euros – but every year.
It’s worth noting that the latest numbers for the sale of the 2013 – 2016 Premier League rights – now bundled up as ‘platform neutral’, ‘audio-visual’ rights – has squeezed over £3 billion from the successful bidders: BSkyB and BT. That’s over £1billion a season for 154 live games. At current exchange rates and with a weak euro, it’s worth c. €1.3 billion; considerably surpassing the Champs League values.
Of course, UEFA and the PL company are essentially competition organisers and regulators; the vast majority of the money raised gets paid to the member nations or the clubs. In addition to prize money for competitors, other monies are redistributed to the overall membership via a host of schemes.
But there remains one potential source of income for competitors, as yet mercifully untapped. FIFA statutes forbid any nation from selling the space on their national shirt to any sponsor (though that wonderful picture of Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner dropping his pants to reveal his Paddy Power sponsored undies is a wonderful piece of ambush marketing.
The shirt-space probably wouldn’t be as valuable as you might think anyway. The All Blacks’ team shirt is currently out at £15m a year, but they’re unlikely to get it. Though rugby is a much smaller sport, it does provide some sort of benchmark. An informed guess might give shirt values of £30m a year for the top tottie, Brazil; with the likes of England, Germany, Italy et al fetching around half that perhaps.
The inventory isn’t very attractive to a sponsor of course – as the regional federations and FIFA have the main rights and there’s little left for the national federations to exploit – so it would have to be all about brand, prestige and the global exposure for the sponsor. Is that enough?
For some time now, international football has been getting less ‘sexy’ for commercial partners anyway (compared to club football). The pressure is on. One reason may be that, as the world can now watch the best club teams on the planet playing regularly all year; criteria are shifting. Everyone sees what really good football is like. But, with the exception of the Euros to date, much of what they see in the big international competitions is of such a low standard.
And that’s because those competitions just get bigger and bigger.
Dr Rogan Taylor is the Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. He is also a writer and broadcaster, with five football books and numerous radio and TV contributions. He has acted as a special adviser to The FA, The Premier League and Premier League Clubs.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.