BeIN closes TL500m Süper Lig aid package, but debate over contract rages
By Jonathan Rest
BeIN Sports, the international pay-television broadcaster, will today make a payment of TL134 million ($16.9 million) to the Turkish Football Federation, as the two parties continue to negotiate amended terms of their five-year, $2.5 billion global rights contract.
It will be the second and final instalment of a special TL500 million package that BeIN and Digiturk, its pay-TV operator in the country and domestic Süper Lig rights-holder, agreed to pay last month in order for cash to flow through to the 21 top-flight clubs, many of which have assigned broadcasting revenues to bank debts.
However, one of those clubs, the Istanbul-based giant Fenerbahce, has slammed the relationship between BeIN and the TFF, claiming that, according to the terms of the contract, the rights-holder should by now have paid $140 million. Once today's payment is made, a total of $63 million would have been transferred.
Ali Koç, Fenerbahce president, told Turkish media it was a "scandal," noting: "There is a crisis with the broadcaster. As it gets longer, Turkish clubs will be affected. The biggest income comes from the publisher."
He added: "Going forward [in the next rights cycle] the clubs will have the final say regarding rights negotiations."
Last month, Mehmet Sepil, president of the Göztepe club, agreed reluctantly to stay on as chairman of the Süper Lig Clubs Association until the winter break, having initially tendered his resignation after growing frustrated at the way the TFF was handling talks with Digiturk about the delayed rights payments behind closed doors.
The dispute with the clubs seems to revolve around the revised contract, which came into force for the 2019-20 season.
While the broadcasters paid the $1 billion for the first two seasons of the contract in full, the first instalment of 25 per cent for the 2019-20 season was withheld, with Digiturk and BeIN demanding that the terms of the agreement be radically adjusted following a significant slide in the value of the Turkish lira.
The original contract stipulated that Digiturk paid the $500 million annual rights fee equally in US dollars and Turkish lira, but the lira's demise meant the broadcaster was facing shelling out considerably more for the rights than anticipated when that deal was signed in November 2016.
It was agreed that the US part of the contract would be paid at the spot exchange rate, which was 3.26 lira: $1 in November 2016, but reached a high of 7.4 lira: $1 before the contract was renegotiated.
In addition, the Turkish lira part of the deal was linked to the consumer price index and producer price index. While this was 2.26 at the time of the deal, it subsequently jumped to the 25 per cent mark before renegotiation.
The TFF, BeIN and Digiturk eventually came to an agreement ahead of the 2019-20 season on a reduced annual dollar figure, with all payments subject to a new fixed exchange rate, albeit the new exchange rate was never publicly revealed.
Sportcal understands that the revised contract has meant a drop of between $100 million and $120 million per season in rights fees paid to the league, and some Süper Lig clubs believe BeIN is now trying to negotiate that down further and pay around $250 million per season, half the original sum agreed in November 2016.
Sources close to both the TFF and BeIN said the two parties are "calmly negotiating" the terms for 2020-21 and 2021-22, the remaining seasons of the contract, and that an agreement "is close" for structured rights payments to resume.
Publicly the TFF has talked up the BeIN-Digiturk relationship, with federation president Nihat Özdemir even telling Turkish media last month that it is open to extending the rights contract.
However, reports in the last week have claimed that the TFF is preparing a third legal notice to BeIN to make its due payments and that if it fails to do so, it will take the matter to the courts, and seek to recoup what it believes it is owed by targeting the Qatar government-backed guarantees that were included in the rights contract.
BeIN continues to maintain it is supporting Süper Lig clubs, through the TL500 million package and the fact that it stood by the TFF in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down the league for three months earlier this year.
Digiturk halted its Süper Lig payments in early April, after the league’s remaining fixtures from the 2019-20 season were postponed, with some $100 million still owed, but resumed the instalments immediately in mid-June once matches resumed.
The 2020-21 season resumes tomorrow after the two-week international break.