May 17, 2021
Nigel Huddleston MP, as Minister for Sport and Tourism, has provided a Written Statement to Parliament stating that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has written to the Premier League and to Sky, BT, Amazon and the BBC, as the current holders of broadcast rights to the Premier League in the UK, to inform them that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is “minded to” make an Exclusion Order under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 of the Competition Act 1998, allowing the Premier League to renew its current broadcast agreements with current UK broadcast partners for an additional three-year period starting 2022-23, without conducting the normal tender process. The DCMS has also published the correspondence between the Secretaries for Culture and Business and the Premier League.
The Premier League requested the Exclusion Order as it says that the football pyramid has suffered “significant financial losses at every level as a result of COVID 19 with existential challenges faced by many clubs and stakeholders”.
In his Written Statement, Mr Huddleston explains that in normal circumstances, absent COVID-19, the Premier League would have re-tendered its domestic broadcast rights in early 2021 at the midpoint of the current three-year cycle, and would have concluded sales by now. However, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the value of broadcast rights for football across Europe and under an auction, it is plausible that the value of the Premier League’s domestic rights could drop.
Mr Huddleston explains that the football pyramid receives the majority of its funding via the Premier League’s broadcast revenue. The Premier League and its clubs have already experienced financial losses totalling over £1.5 billion due to the impact of the pandemic, with further losses projected into next season. The wider football pyramid, through to grassroots, has also suffered financial losses due to the pandemic. It was to provide financial stability for the football pyramid that the Premier League made the request to Government.
Mr Huddleston further explains that under paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to the Competition Act 1998, the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has the power to exclude certain agreements from the application of UK competition law where there are “exceptional and compelling reasons of public policy” to do so.
If such an Exclusion Order is made, the Premier League has made the following commitments to:
- guarantee existing levels of financial support for the football pyramid for four years from 2021/22 to the end of the 2024/25 season;
- maintain at least this level of funding even if its international broadcast rights decrease in value when they are re-tendered individually over the next year into 2022, and to increase the level of funding if its international broadcast rights exceed their current value; and
- provide a further minimum £100 million in solidarity and good causes funding to the end of the 2024/25 season, in roughly equal shares, to the National League, women’s football, League One and Two clubs, grassroots football and cross-game initiatives.
Both the Business and Culture Secretaries have considered the Premier League’s request and are minded to agree to the Exclusion Order in order to protect the football pyramid’s receipt of funds for various public policy reasons.
Mr Huddleston noted that the Government is in the process of a fan-led review of football governance, and the Premier League is undertaking a Strategic Review. He said that the proposed Exclusion Order would not preclude those reviews from acting to change the distribution of broadcast revenue, but it would provide a level of certainty for the wider football pyramid and a minimum level of funding to maintain stability to 2024/25.
However, before the final decision is made, the Business and Culture Secretaries have invited written representations from interested parties to be sent to email@example.com by 1700 on Friday 28 May 2021.