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February 22, 2021

Ajax want to sell own international rights but would cede some domestic TV money

Ajax, the Dutch soccer giants, want to break the collective sales agreement in the Eredivisie and market their international rights themselves, and are willing to distribute domestic media revenues more fairly to make that happen.

By Jonathan Rest

Ajax, the Dutch soccer giants, want to break the collective sales agreement in the Eredivisie and market their international rights themselves, and are willing to distribute domestic media revenues more fairly to make that happen.

The 18 Eredivisie clubs split the €12 million annual ($14.6 million) revenue from international rights evenly, but the club from Amsterdam believes it can take advantage of its larger profile to boost the coffers, commercial director Menno Geelen has said.

Aware that their proposal will anger rival clubs, Ajax have offered to take their cut of proceedings down from the 12.95 per cent they earned for the 2019-20 season to around 10.5 or 10 per cent, equivalent to a near €2 million drop, which would be distributed throughout the league.

In the Eredivisie, the pot of TV funds is divided on the basis of performance over the last 10 years, with the most recently completed season having the most weight, and Ajax took home €10.295 million in both 2018-19, when they won the title, and 2019-20, which was annulled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ajax and AZ Alkmaar joint top.

Fox Sports holds live domestic rights to the Eredivisie until the end of the 2024-25 season. The agreement is worth, on average, €80 million per season, with a 5 per cent increase each year.

International media rights are distributed by IMG, the international sports and entertainment agency, in a deal running to the end of the 2021-22 season.

In an interview with Voetbal International and NRC Handelsblad, Geelen said Ajax wants more “influence and possibilities” in the marketing of their live matches abroad, calling a collective sales model “outdated.”

Explaining his proposal, Geelen said: “Since some clubs stick to the guarantee amount, they now always opt for short-term money instead of daring to look at the long term. And so it arises that there are clubs, especially the big clubs, that opt ​​for choices also for reach and fame and clubs that mainly want the certainty that they will receive money and therefore only look at the short term.”

He fears the Eredivisie is being viewed in fewer and fewer countries, and even then on smaller networks, noting: “If you want to become known as a club in America, you cannot hope that Americans will see Ajax. We need large content partners in order to be visible.”

Critical of the rights deal struck in China with K-Ball, the online streaming service of Win Power, a subsidiary of the China Sports Media marketing agency, Geelen continued: “Potentially you have a reach of more than a billion people in China, and the Eredivisie is selling the rights to an app with 200,000 downloads. That means you are giving away the entire market. And as an individual club, you are not allowed to sell any live content or match images to the Chinese market.”

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