A TV rights dispute caused a couple Brazilian club soccer rivals to not play each other after state federation officials refused to start the match until both teams ended their YouTube livestream of that match. Both teams refused to end the livestream and the match was postponed.
Coritiba and Atlético Paranaense have a rather heated stateside rivalry. They are the only two clubs from the state of Paraná who currently play in the top Brazilian soccer league (Brasileiro Série A) and have a combined 60 titles in the state sanctioned league Campeonato Paranense.
The two rivals were supposed to play in a Paranense match in Atletico’s stadium. Unlike the United States where the league negotiates TV rights for all their teams and develop a much stronger negotiating position, Brazilian teams have control of their own individual TV rights and not the federations. This causes a vast majority of Brazilian clubs to have a far weaker negotiating position and unless you are a big club like Corinthians and Flamengo, chances are you are fighting for scraps in TV revenue.
Both clubs decided to livestream their match after refusing an offer by Brazilian network Globo. Globo offered 1 million Brazilian Real ($324k) to each club to show their Paranense matches in Paraná. Instead, the clubs planned to livestream their derby match on each team’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Apparently this had been decided last Friday and the Federação Paranaense de Futebol didn’t say whether or not that was a problem.
All of a sudden, while the teams were lined up and ready to kickoff, the referee refused to start the match on orders of the federation. The federation claimed that because the broadcast and production crew (provided by Atlético) wasn’t credentialed by the federation, they had to leave the pitch (therefore ending the livestream) before the match could start. Both teams went back to the locker room and only came back out after 45 minutes to thank the fans. The match would be postponed. Ironically, fans at the stadium pulled up the livestream on their phones in order to see what was being discussed on the pitch while the public address announcer kept fans updated.
Both teams defended their decision to not play.
Mauro Holzzman, Atlético’s marketing director said, “I wanted to explain for our fans. Atlético and Coritiba didn’t sell their broadcast rights to Globo for this esmola (Portuguese for “little money given to poor people”) and we are doing a free broadcast on YouTube. Absurdly, the federation doesn’t want us to play if we don’t stop the broadcast. Both clubs didn’t sell their rights. We decided to do an independent and free broadcast. Our production team doesn’t have ties to any TV station. So, we aren’t playing. Both coaches agree with this.”
On the other side, José Fernando Macedo, Coritiba’s VP said, “The federation sent an order to the referee saying that we couldn’t broadcast because they have an agreement with Globo. Coritiba and Atlético feels that we have the right to broadcast the game. The teams will not give up this match.”
Essentially, the timeline was as followed. Globo lowballed the two clubs in an attempt to receive TV rights for Coritiba and Atlético matches for cheap because they are essentially the only network around who could broadcast the match. Both clubs called their bluff and decided they may as well do it themselves rather than accept an offer they felt was insulting. Fearing this could set a precedent among other clubs, the federation refused to start the match in order to either protect a valuable TV partner or because Globo pressured them to do that.
In a time where more and more leagues are broadcasting their matches on social media and YouTube, it’s apparently not going to be the case in Brazil anytime soon. At least not in Paraná.