Sunday was a big day in the world of soccer, with various reports that threatened to upend the entire sport as we know it.
That’s somehow not hyperbole. As many as fifteen top European clubs signed on for a new breakaway Super League. If they succeed in their secession, it’s not a stretch to say that every rights deal for top club soccer and top international competitions would need to be redone.
The Super League announced pic.twitter.com/nAooYowBZ3
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) April 18, 2021
And, obviously, an exclusive league featuring the top 15-20ish teams in all of Europe could command top rates from a rights partner, in addition to potentially devaluing other deals (including perhaps the Champions League and even the World Cup, should FIFA stick with their initial threat that Super League players may be banned from international competition.)
Initial reports, though, had one specific network/streaming service poised to prosper: DAZN, which was named as having a potential stake in the Super League.
Monday brought a denial, however, via Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman:
A report in Italy’s respected sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport today claimed that sports streaming service DAZN, which is owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, has been working on the formation of the league. The Italian paper claimed the streamer is willing to pay $3.5BN for the TV rights to the European SuperLeague if it goes ahead.
However, in a statement to us, DAZN firmly rejected the report: “In relation to a report by Corriere dello Sport today, this and related reports are false. Neither DAZN nor Mr. Blavatnik are in any way involved or interested in entering into discussions regarding the establishment of a Super League and no conversations have taken place,” the streamer said.
How seriously should we take this denial? That’s always a tough call. Considering the immense backlash to the announcement, it’s possible DAZN is taking a step back to see how things play out. The clubs involved are about to enter into, at best, a lengthy negotiation process with the sport’s governing bodies. It might include various lawsuits from both sides.
If DAZN really does have the inside track to an ownership stake and therefore exclusive rights, they don’t need to get out in front of things. They can afford to wait on the sidelines and hope that either it happens and DAZN ends up owning rights to the biggest league in the world’s biggest sport, or if things fall apart in negotiations they’re not attached to it.
On the other hand, maybe they really aren’t involved at this point! That’s not impossible! But as they’re in the live rights business, it would be malpractice on their part to not push for rights to a potential Super League, no matter how damaging it might end up being to the world of soccer.