Belgian Pro League: TV rights tender to launch by November

Club Brugge celebrate after scoring a goal during Jupiler Pro League match between Club Brugge KV and KRC Genk at Jan Breydel Stadium on September 1, 2019 in Brugge, Belgium. (Photo by Vincent Van Doornick/Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images)

The Belgian Pro League is looking to kick off its domestic broadcast rights auction “at the end of October or early November” despite still lacking consensus from clubs over the collective sale of the rights.

Pro League chief executive Pierre François revealed the timescale following talks with clubs at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) general assembly meeting.

Despite the failure of Belgium’s clubs to agree on a collective rights sales model, the Pro League management has been given the go-ahead to continue with the invitation to tender process so that bids from broadcasters can be submitted for clubs’ approval in January.

The new broadcast rights contracts are expected to run from 2020-21 to 2022-23.

For the current cycle (from 2017-18 to 2019-20), Pro League and the now collapsed MP & Silva agency brought in upwards of €80m ($88.3m) per season from live domestic rights deals with telecoms operations Proximus, Telenet and Voo, plus highlights and clips contracts.

The Jupiler Pro League’s top sides, including the likes of Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liège, have been considering the individual sale of their rights to broadcasters, while smaller clubs have been particularly in favour of retaining the collective approach.

François said: “We hope that in January 2020 we can present the proposals of interested parties and land them [the agreements] at the end of January. The outcome of the tender may be the key to reaching an agreement on the collective sale of the TV rights.”

The Belgian top flight will retain its 16-team format with playoffs after the league and member clubs signed off on the competition format in April.

This came after proposals for either a top tier of 20 teams or a new structure with a 14-team ‘1A’ division and 10-team ‘1B division’ both failed to gain the necessary approval. However, the discussions over the format served to push back the invitation to tender process.

RFBF, the French-language public broadcaster, holds highlights rights to the Belgian top division until the end of this season. RTBF also shares live rights to the Belgian Super Cup (with Telenet). Vier, the SBS-owned channel, holds the main package of free-to-air Flemish-language highlights rights.

Non-exclusive clip rights deals are in place with the league’s live and highlights broadcasters, along with various publishing companies, including De Persgroep and Mediahuis.