Tenfield and in-house channel among TV options for AUF with qualifiers approaching
The issue of media rights to Uruguay matches in the qualifying competition for soccer’s 2022 Fifa World Cup is coming to a head, with the leaders of the AUF, the national federation, still weighing up several options.
The executive committee is due to meet next week, and has the choice to retain established rights partner Tenfield, the Uruguayan sports agency, appoint a different intermediary to market the rights, or look to exploit the games through in-house television channel AUFTV.
Uruguay is the only one of the 10 countries of Conmebol yet to agree a rights deal for the South American qualifiers, and, while the coronavirus pandemic has given it extra time to mull the possibilities, there is now a pressing need to reach a decision, with Uruguay set to play their first match, at home to Chile, on 8 October.
Earlier this year, the AUF opted to enter direct negotiations with companies after declaring null and void a media rights tender for the World Cup qualifiers, as the offers failed to match expectations. The qualifiers were originally due to start in March.
There is still on the table a $20 million bid from Tenfield for the full package of rights, and, if the AUF goes elsewhere, the company and Full Play, the Argentine agency, which shared the rights to Uruguay’s qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, have the contractual right to match any offer, according to Uruguayan newspaper El Observador.
Tenfield, which is headed up by prominent Uruguayan soccer agent Paco Casal, is a long-time partner of the AUF, with rights to domestic competitions until 2025.
Its offer has the advantage of ensuring a fixed sum, but would rule out the use of AUFTV, which the federation is eager to promote, and is supported by senior national team players, which believe that Tenfield exerts too much influence over the sport.
It is reported that the alternatives include accepting an offer of $12 million, with a potential bonus of $2 million, from a US company to distribute the rights to the qualifiers, while incorporating AUFTV, or retaining the matches exclusively for the in-house channel.
The AUF is said to have received offers from two potential partners, one from Chile, to aid with the distribution of the qualifiers on AUFTV.
However, there is uncertainty over the economic potential of this option, and it would only apply to Uruguay’s nine home World Cup qualifiers.
The final decision rests with the AUF executive committee, headed up by president Ignacio Alonso, and could be made by 28 September given that the aforementioned matching clause applies for 10 days.
The pandemic may have forced the federation to lower its ambitions after it was originally reported to be targeting $32 million from the sale of the rights, almost double the $18 million it brought in for the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.
On that occasion, Full Play bought the rights to the Uruguay home qualifiers for $6 million, while giving the AUF rights to the 81 qualifiers to be played in the other Conmebol countries, including the national team’s away matches, and the federation sold those on to Tenfield for $12 million.