Gent get on board with Pro League's Eleven Sports rights deal
By Jonathan Rest
Belgian soccer's Pro League is ready to press ahead with a new lucrative domestic broadcasting rights agreement with Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, after top-flight outfit KAA Gent rowed back on its decision to break from the mandated collective sale of rights.
Pro League president Peter Croonen met with Gent director Ivan De Witte and managing director Michel Louwagie yesterday to discuss the finer details of Eleven's €103 million ($111.6 million) per season offer for the 2020-21 to 2024-25 cycle.
Gent had rejected that offer at last week's general assembly, saying it believed "exclusivity was undervalued in the offer" and that it had received "a lack of clear answers to questions from our club during the general assembly debate."
However, following talks with league executives, Gent said it now "wishes to emphasise that it joins the other clubs in the Pro League, mainly because our club is convinced that solidarity is necessary and essential. KAA Gent confirms that this decision to participate in solidarity is part of the club's DNA."
In response, Croonen said: "We are delighted with the KAA Gent's rallying: this is fully in line with the DNA of this club, which has always been a strong supporter of solidarity."
Pro League chief executive Pierre Francois was expected to meet with Eleven representatives today, and Sportcal understands talks are ongoing with Antwerp FC, also of the top-tier, which along with Gent had voted against the revenue distribution model last week.
Eleven was regarded as being in “pole position” to acquire the live rights to the Pro League ahead of the incumbent rights-holders, the telecoms trio of Telenet, Voo and Proximus, which tabled an offer of €102 million per year.
There was a new round of bidding two weeks ago after initial offers did not reach the required amount, being in the order of only around €92 million per year, while the league was seeking in excess of €100 million.
There was a further complication with the Pro League clubs divided over the revenue distribution model, but this appeared to have been resolved a week ago when the G5, the big five clubs of Anderlecht, Standard Liege, Genk, Club Brugge and Ghent, reached agreement with the other 11 over how more than €20 million in extra income would be divided.
This represents the difference between the value of the new deal and the €80.6 million per season that Telenet, Voo and Proximus are paying for the rights at present.
The three telecoms operators are expected to continue to show top-flight matches once new carriage agreements have been reached with the Eleven, which launched in Belgium in 2015 and narrowly missed out in the last sales process, having sought exclusivity in any deal with the league and its then rights advisor MP & Silva.