Opinion: Bundesliga clubs should be happy with new media rights deal

The big bombshell media deal never materialized for the DFL, the organization which governs the Bundesliga and German second division. Yet Germany’s top football clubs will not be impoverished in the coming years.

The auction of German-language rights packages raised just under €1.1 billion ($1.24 billion) per season from 2021 to 2025 on Monday. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, this means that the revenue shortfall is only about 5% compared to the existing media contracts. Yet, it is 20% less than what the DFL had hoped for before the crisis.

At the press conference after the general assembly of the 36 football clubs in Germany’s top two divisions, DFL boss Christian Seifert was noticeably relieved.

“I am quite satisfied,” Seifert said of the outcome.

The new package still yields €1.16 billion per season. When the current agreements were signed in 2016, prices had soared 80% compared to the previous media rights package. But those were different times.

Investment against the trend

The coronavirus pandemic not only led to an interruption of Bundesliga operations of more than two months but sponsors lost their revenues, TV stations their advertising income. There is no recovery in sight.

Professional football had to endure criticism during a phase in which its importance, ethics, and commercial relationships were being discussed. It’s not for nothing that, in May, around half of the people in Germany voted against the resumption of the Bundesliga season in a survey.

DW's Tobias Oelmaier

DW’s Tobias Oelmaier

Against this background, the willingness of media partners to invest is bold. Nobody knows how professional football will develop domestically and globally — not only financially, but also socially.

Can football defend its status, which is often criticized as exaggerated, in the light of any unforeseeable financial effects of the pandemic? Will the economy recover to the point where money is available for the leisure and luxury of football? Particularly since there is no normalization in sight in the game.

“The next season that can be carried out normally, as will be the 2021-22 season,” Seifert predicted. 

The coming summer will be hard. The DFL president warned of slumps in transfer revenues and difficulties in negotiations with sponsors. He urged clubs to make provisions for risks, something that has been neglected by many in the past.

Everyone must tighten their belts

Despite notes of optimism, about 20% less than expected is a big drop, even if it doesn’t sound like much in the billion-euro range.

“For some, this will mean tightening their belts,” Seifert said. “For clubs, for players and for agents.”

And yet, the DFL are happy. As one should be, especially when looking at the rest of European leagues, where negotiations with broadcast partners are set for next year and where the pandemic has had much stronger impact.

As Seifert said, “Now we have financial security until 2025.” Financial security is a great asset in these uncertain times.


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