Four finalists have emerged in the multibillion-dollar auction for media and sponsorship rights to UEFA’s men’s club competitions, expected to be among the most expensive commercial rights tenders in sports history, according to multiple people familiar with the process.
The tender includes rights to the Champions League and Europa League, annual competitions to crown the best clubs in Europe. The rights will generate about $4.1 billion per year in the current 2021-24 three-year cycle and are expected to bring in more than $30 billion in the two cycles from 2024-2030, the people said.
Representatives for Relevent, IMG and UEFA declined to comment. Infront and TEAM did not answer Sportico’s requests for comment.
The governing body for European soccer, UEFA in October announced it was beginning the process for an agency to represent its commercial rights starting in 2024. Unlike U.S. leagues such as the NFL or NBA, which sell media and sponsorship in-house, UEFA contracts that work out to a third party, which then negotiates with broadcasters and corporate partners. The four finalists are bidding on the three-year cycle of 2024-27, with an option for 2027-2030, the people said.
TEAM is the incumbent, having held exclusive rights to UEFA competitions for more than 25 years. Relevent, backed by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Endeavor-owned IMG and Wanda Group’s Infront all have extensive experience in soccer rights as well.
Commercial rights for the men’s club competitions has grown significantly in the past decade. Revenue was about $2.7 billion annually in 2015-18, and $3.7 billion annually in 2018-21, according to one of the people. Media currently accounts for about 85% of that total, with sponsorship representing the bulk of the rest.
The potentially record-breaking deal is being administered by a joint venture between UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) called the UEFA Club Competitions S.A. (UCCSA).
Headquartered in Switzerland, UEFA has been besieged by requests from top clubs for higher payouts. Back in July, a group of clubs led by Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez unsuccessfully tried to form a new tournament called the Super League, aiming to distribute bigger payouts to top European clubs. In October, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chair of the ECA, an independent organization that represents the interests of soccer clubs, told reporters the organization needed a “new model” to achieve better financial stability for the clubs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Al-Khelaifi replaced Andrea Agnelli, the president of Italy’s Juventus F.C. who left the ECA after his club joined the short-lived Super League initiative. He is also the president of Paris Saint-Germain and beIN media group.
This UEFA tender could hinge on whether the finalists are willing to offer a minimum revenue guaranteed. That guarantee, which acts as a signing bonus, would give UEFA a large upfront sum that it can distribute to the clubs immediately.
The 2024-2025 season will be an important test for the UEFA. The Champions League, its most prominent club tournament, will revamp its format starting in 2024. The current 32-team tournament will be replaced by a 36-team competition, where each team plays 10 group-stage matches instead of the current six.
UEFA is also adding inventory with the addition of the Europa Conference league, a third-tier tournament below the Champions League and the Europa League.
(This article has been updated in the fourth paragraph to reflect that UEFA declined to comment.)