Football: Top clubs' television income set to reach the sky

Top English football clubs already rake in huge amounts of money from television companies but, as Keith Weir explains, the pay-per-view revolution could make today's sums look tiny.
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The Independent Online
Premiership clubs could earn over pounds 500m from television rights to live matches in the 2003/2004 season, a study released yesterday said.

Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool, the armchair fans' favourites, will be the big winners as pay-per-view coverage is introduced over the next few years, the report added.

Compiled by the sports consultancy Oliver & Ohlbaum and the business publishers Fletcher Research, the report said pay-per-view would generate some pounds 280m annually for Premiership clubs by 2003/2004. Clubs would earn a further pounds 240m from the continuation of a subscription service offering a package of 60 live games per season. That compares with the pounds 135m the clubs receive from Sky Sports for such live rights this year.

By 2003/2004, around 2.5m households would be taking pay-per-view. This could boost Sky's profits by pounds 100m annually, the report said.

Sky, which now has six million subscribers, is expected to develop pay- per-view coverage as part of its drive to get subscribers to sign up for the 200-channel digital service it plans to launch next year.

The report said 18 million people in England and Wales, a third of the population, consider themselves football fans. Seven million claimed to support Manchester United, Liverpool or Newcastle. England's big three are likely to cream off over 25 per cent of all pay television revenues by 2003/2004.

Proposals for a World Club Championship look unlikely to win backing from delegates of Uefa, the governing body of European football, at a conference in Helsinki today. The idea of either an eight or 16-club world championship being held in an increasingly congested fixture list has largely met with a lukewarm response at best. The Uefa meeting, for national football authorities' presidents and general secretaries, appears set to reject the idea.

Uefa is also unwilling to commit itself to the idea, which has most support in Asia and Africa, where member countries see it as a way for clubs to earn lucrative paydays against European or South American champion clubs.

Gerhard Aigner, Uefa's general secretary, who has helped prepare today's discussion document, has also questioned when any club championship could be played. "The impetus for this has not come from Europe," he said yesterday, "and without European clubs it cannot really happen. Uefa does not think the time is right for this, but we must wait and see what the members think."