English Soccer Clubs Plan to Launch Breakaway ‘Premier League 2’ – Bloomberg
Some of England’s most-followed soccer clubs currently playing in the second-tier Championship are in early discussions about forming a breakaway league, according to people familiar with the matter.
Frustrated by a recent broadcast contract with Sky Plc which they see as too long and too small in value, at least 10 clubs have given their support to trying to find an alternative, said the people, who asked not to identified because the matter is private and the teams don’t want their names public.
One idea being discussed is a Premier League 2 of 18 clubs that would try to ally with a new broadcast partner, the people said. The teams intend to discuss the plan with current soccer broadcasters as well as technology giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., which are showing increasing interest in live sports, the people said.
Championship clubs such as Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest have strong followings and rich histories, including league and cup titles in England and Europe. While currently in the second-tier series, many of the teams have had long spells in the top league, competing against clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool.
Under the current system, the bottom three teams from the first-level Premier League get relegated to Championship after each season, and three teams from that competition get promoted to Premier League.
The group has discussed the idea with Richard Scudamore, the executive chairman of the Premier League, according to the people. The Premier League declined to comment.
In September, England’s lower-tier teams agreed to a five-year deal with Sky that gives them 120 million pounds ($157 million) a year in total. The contract was negotiated by the teams’ parent organization, the English Football League. Each Championship club will earn about 7 million pounds a year under the new deal, while Premier League teams make a minimum of more than 90 million pounds.
Some of the larger Championship clubs argue they have been short-changed by the recent deal with Sky, given their viewing figures. Derby County, for example, attracted around 400,000 live viewers to a recent televised match, almost half the Sky average for Premier League matches of 819,000.
Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest are former European Cup winners, Leeds were one of the game’s big powers in the 1960s onward for nearly 30 years and Sheffield Wednesday still draws in big attendances and television audiences.
Shaun Harvey, chief executive officer of the English Football League, said he hasn’t been contacted by any club about a desire to leave the competition.
“Sky Sports has for many years been a hugely important and valued partner of the EFL and we were delighted to extend our relationship by a further five years,” Harvey said in an email. “The detail in respect of the record-breaking 600 million-pound domestic broadcasting agreement was presented to all clubs in September and no questions or objections were raised.”
Representatives for Sky, Facebook and Amazon declined to comment.
The Premier League, whose latest three-year broadcast deal with Sky and BT Group Plc attracted a European record value of 5.1 billion pounds, is about to begin negotiations on a new TV contract. Some of its club owners and executives have said they would welcome bids from the likes of Facebook and Amazon, though the companies haven’t said whether they will participate.