The deal

Last week, the second-tier English Football League (EFL) soccer body unveiled deals for its international broadcast rights across the next four-year cycle with the Pitch International and Relevent agencies.

The EFL has said that the deals – with the body taking on two partners for the first time – entail record guaranteed international rights fees for the cycle beginning next season (2024-25) and running through 2027-28. The governing body has said the deals have been struck after full and comprehensive tender processes, (beginning in October) which had the aim of assessing how to provide “additional strategic value in key markets.”

The deals are in total worth at least £148 million ($190 million) over the four seasons – a 40% increase on the EFL's current overseas rights arrangements. Of that figure, £132 million will come from Pitch and the remainder from Relevent.

In a new tie-up for the 72-club EFL, Relevent has snapped up distribution rights for the three-tier EFL across North, Central, and South America, and the EFL has said the duo will work together “to build member clubs’ profile in this key region via a dedicated marketing partnership.”

Pitch, meanwhile, will distribute EFL action across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa (MENA), as well as ‘the rest of the world’ regions. This continues the long-standing relationship between that agency and the EFL, which has been in place for 15 years.

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The details

Pitch, through the deal, will distribute 155 Championship matches, 38 League One and Two matches, all Play-Off matches, all Carabao Cup matches and three Bristol Street Motor Trophy matches, as well as a comprehensive betting rights package. Relevent, meanwhile, now can sell rights to all EFL regular season league games, all playoff fixtures, all Carabao Cup games and three Bristol Street Motors Trophy matches.”

The agency has also secured betting rights, but in this case only throughout the US.

As part of these new deals for the next cycle, the English soccer body has said clubs will be able to keep covering games via their own overseas streaming services – in territories where an exclusive broadcast partner is not found.

Both deals are for media rights to the second-tier Championship, third-tier League One, and fourth-tier League Two, running through 2027-28. They also cover rights to the EFL’s knockout cup competitions, as well as to the end-of-season playoffs.

Domestic rights to EFL action for the next cycle – 2024-25 to 2028-29 – are held by pay-TV heavyweight Sky Sports, in a deal unveiled in May last year.

Following the end of the coming international rights cycle in 2028, the EFL could bundle its rights in with the Premier League, following proposals to do so in September.

Why it matters

This deal represents a significant coup for US-based Relevent, as it has taken a slice out of rights exclusively held during the 2018-24 cycle by Pitch.

The EFL has now identified the US as an area for broadcast expansion, especially with Wrexham – of fourth-tier League Two – owned by US celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney since early 2021.

Indeed, the lower-league club has since become the subject of a behind-the-scenes documentary called Welcome to Wrexham, through a deal between the owners and the Disney entertainment and media heavyweight.

In total, across the EFL, over 25 clubs are either under full or partial US ownership.

Peter Scrimgeour, senior sports analyst at GlobalData (Sportcal), has commented on the dual agreements, with the Wrexham situation in mind: “While the popularity of the Championship is one reason for the landmark rise in international broadcast rights, there is no doubt that Wrexham's Hollywood stardust has contributed to the increase as well.

“The news interest and exposure in the US of two Hollywood A-list celebrities buying an unfashionable North-Wales club has been staggering. And the success of Disney's Welcome to Wrexham covering the takeover, then the historic campaign when Wrexham were promoted from the National Leagues to the EFL, has been well-received by audiences.

“With more storylines to come and the journey continuing – how fast will they rise through the EFL – Wrexham and the EFL are only going to gain more interest and awareness over the next few years in the US, hence the interest in the international broadcast rights.”

Relevent, also distributes US media rights sales for the lucrative UEFA pan-European club soccer competitions, through a deal unveiled in February 2022.

Since then, a deal for UEFA club competition action has been struck with the Paramount Sports network.

The deal's increase in value compared to the previous international rights tie-up also represents a handy bargaining tool for the EFL, at a time when it is hoping to extract more funding from the top-tier Premier League in the form of a revenue-sharing deal – which is currently being negotiated.