Real Madrid are on the verge of signing a £543m television deal that will be "the most important contract in the history of world sport", according to the club's president, Ramon Calderon. "The deal guarantees us €800m over seven seasons and will be signed in the next few days," a club spokesman said.
The contract, for domestic games, will not be worth as much per year as Barcelona's next TV deal - a five-year package due to start in 2008 worth £81.4m a year - but Real's contract will be the most valuable overall.
Spanish clubs are allowed to negotiate individual deals with broadcasters, hence Real and Barcelona's ability to secure huge sums. That is not the case in England, where clubs negotiate collectively. The biggest earners in the Premiership last season from domestic TV alone were Manchester United (£30.65m), followed by Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. Earnings vary depending on finishing position and the number of times each club's games are screened live.
However, the collective deal in the Premiership means that the income differential from television is relatively small between the top and bottom clubs, with the champions earning perhaps twice as much as the bottom side. In countries where clubs do individual deals, notably Italy and now Spain, the domestic TV earnings of the biggest clubs can outstrip the smallest in their division by 25 to one.
Real have not yet disclosed the name of company buying their rights, or when the new deal will start. Their rights are currently owned by the pay-TV firm Sogecable, which also holds the rights for most of La Liga. Sogecable currently pays Real £37.3m a year.
However, the publicly owned television station Telemadrid said earlier this month that it was going to bid for Real's rights and reports in Spain yesterday suggested that Telemadrid, backed by Madrid's regional government and the Caja Madrid bank, were on the brink of doing the deal. Telemadrid is free to air and would need to recoup its outlay via advertising.
* The Real Madrid president, Ramon Calderon, remains hopeful David Beckham will stay at the club. "We have offered a contract extension to Beckham... He represents the claw, the spirit of the club. I would like him to continue here."
The world's best TV deals
Real Madrid £77.54m
Man Utd £30.65m
All earnings are from domestic TV rights only.