Future of collective rights selling unsure after Anderlecht's Coucke quits Pro League
By Jonathan Rest
Marc Coucke has quit as president of the Pro League, Belgium's top soccer division, prompting reports that the Anderlecht owner will look to pull his club out of the collective rights selling agreement for the next cycle.
Coucke (pictured) quit late last week, less than a year after replacing Roger Vanden Stock (the pharmaceutical entrepreneur acquired Anderlecht from a group of investors headed by the Vanden Stock family at the end of 2017).
Domestic Pro League rights are contracted until the end of the 2019-20 season, and a tender for the next cycle is expected to be launched ahead of the start of that campaign.
However, Sportcal was told by a leading player in the Belgian broadcast market just this month that the tender release is likely to be pushed back due to "noise from certain clubs about doing this [TV rights selling] themselves."
"It's a very complicated time in Belgian football," the source added.
Anderlecht and Standard Liege have previously been linked with moves to market their own rights, believing the collective approach does not maximise their earnings potential, and the Brussels-based club and reigning Pro League champions Club Brugge are reported to be leading the campaign this time around, Het Nieuwsblad, the respected Flemish-language newspaper, has reported.
Coucke's resignation from the Pro League will avoid any conflict of interest when the top-tier clubs come to the negotiation table for the next broadcast deal, according to the newspaper.In a statement, the Pro League said only: "The management of the Pro League respects the choice of Marc Coucke, but not without expressing its greatest appreciation of the commitments that the chairman took over the past year as chairman of the association of professional clubs.
"The Pro League therefore wants to thank Marc Coucke for his sincere commitment to the general interest of Belgian professional football and his unwavering support, certainly in the more difficult moments that Belgian football experienced in the past year."
The Pro League is bringing in over €80 million ($89.6 million) per season from its broadcast rights in the present three-year cycle in a tender process run by the league and its former advisor, the now-defunct MP & Silva agency (see table).
The bulk of rights are held by telecoms trio Telenet, Voo and Proximus.
MP & Silva began selling the league’s international rights in 2014-15 after signing a six-year agreement with the Pro League that also covered the sale of domestic rights.
The Pro League is expected to handle the sale of domestic rights itself, but has tasked Spring Media, the Stockholm-based sports media and marketing agency, with helping to sell international rights until at least the end of the 2019-20 season.
|Rights packages awarded in Jupiler Pro League tender 2017-18 to 2019-20|
|Lot 1||Live TV rights to all matches (including 'TV everywhere' services)||Telenet||Non-exclusive|
|Lot 2||Live internet and mobile rights only to all matches||Telenet||Exclusive|
|Lot 3||Live Super Cup rights||Telenet||Exclusive|
|Lot 4||Internet and mobile rights to near-live and delayed||Telenet||Non-exclusive|
|Lot 5||Free-to-air highlights rights||Telenet||Exclusive|
|Lot 6||Monday evening magazine show||VRT||Exclusive|
|Source: Pro League|