By Tony Attwood
La Liga president Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, got rather annoyed with the Super League clubs accusing them of “lying more than Putin.”
This was just about the time Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli told an audience at the Financial Times’ “Business of Football Summit” in London last month. “Twelve clubs signed a 120-page contract and it is still binding for 11 of those clubs.”
And this is because the deal the clubs signed made them all shareholders in the Super League, and that included Arsenal. The European Super League Company, based in Spain, is still there and Arsenal and the rest are still members. They might say they are not, but the contract remains in place. Only Inter Milan, it seems, added a clause that allowed them to pull out of the deal under certain circumstances, and (it also seems) they have done that.
Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, even talked about this, saying, “I’m not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here, but the fact is, the clubs can’t leave,” without the others agreeing.
But does it matter? After all the English media hasn’t mentioned this so surely it can’t be that important. After all the English media are pretty much on the ball when it comes to international affairs, aren’t they?
Well, actually no, they are not, and they miss a huge amount because of their near-universal belief that English football fans are only interested in certain things, and foreigners and contracts are not part of the “certain things” package.
Which is a shame because the media in the UK has also by and large missed what it is that is bothering the owners of big sports franchises across the western world.
It is the fact that the NBA basketball league can demand $8 billion a year for TV rights in the USA alone, while the Bundesliga receives 1.16 billion euros per year from domestic rights marketing. And while rights are shooting up in value in America, they are not in Europe.
So what is going on, and where is all this money coming from?
The answer quite simply is gambling, and not just any old gambling but gambling which becomes integral to the game itself. You can already hear it in a sort of basic chatty way on TalkSport. Live betting, where the odds change moment by moment as the game progresses.
The approach is aimed at the “now” world of younger viewers. The issues of “Caliciopoli” in Italian football, and “Yaochō” in Japanese wrestling ten years ago, which saw endless games being fixed have been set aside. Now even amateur football is involved because it costs far less to influence amateurs in terms of a game. After all, they don’t get paid.
As a result of this Uefa announced that it could no longer handle match fixing on its own and needed help from private companies. You might even recall our article (ignored in every way by the all-seeing UK media) headlined Exclusive: Uefa admit match fixing is now too big for them to fight it.
That was in October 2019. The English media wouldn’t touch it then, and won’t touch it now, probably because stories relating to the end of sport as we know are just a bit too much for them to take on board.
But the NBA basketball league has been heading closer and closer to cooperation with betting providers moment by moment until the moment when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban co-invested $44 million with basketball’s Michael Jordan in Sportradar in 2015 and live betting got what it wanted. Live scores and algorithms that convert those scores microsecond by miscrosecond into betting odds. Punters place bets via apps on their phones.
There are limits of course. Currently set at $30,000 per bet while fanatics invest in programs that analyse the odds looking for points that will allow them the edge.
And the connection between Super League and gambling is that the latter was going to be launched with all the latest gambling connections and that would fund the League, without showing up on the football side of the participating clubs’ books.
So vast are the potential profits from gambling on Super League games, that the clubs don’t want to pull out of Super League because it is their financial salvation. Not gambling, but “Sports betting” through which punters respond to actual real-live events as they happen.
It is where we are heading, it is why Super League hasn’t been wound up, and it is why also the traditional media of TV and clubs don’t like it – because they are not part of it. The salvation that Super League brought was not 14 games a year, but gambling on a scale that has never been seen before.
Uefa know, which is why two years ago they started advertising for companies to help them fight the corruption. It just seems to have passed by the English media.
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