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M6 and TF1 bid for Euro 2020 fee repayment ‘politely rejected’

Euro 2020 logo behind a fence at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

French free-to-air commercial broadcasters M6 and TF1 have attempted to secure a temporary repayment of around €18m ($20.3m) on rights costs already paid for football’s 2020 Uefa European Championship, which has been delayed until the summer of 2021.

The request has been “politely but firmly” rejected by Uefa, European football’s governing body, according to L’Équipe.

Having already paid 35 per cent of the combined €50m rights fees due, M6 and TF1 had written to Uefa earlier this year asking that the remaining repayments could be rescheduled until next season after the Covid-19 crisis led to the tournament postponement.

Uefa is said to have agreed that M6 and TF1, along with other international rights-holding broadcasters, can defer their remaining fee payments. However, the French broadcasters’ bid for a temporary refund on fees already committed appears unlikely to succeed.

M6 and TF1 finalised their rights deal with Uefa and its rights agency CAA Eleven in November last year by securing free-to-air rights to a total of 23 matches, agreeing to pay a total of €25m each.

Having settled a first tranche upon the signature of the deal, the broadcasters are reported to have paid a second instalment in January, but the remaining instalments in April and June have been pushed back to next season.

The duo are thought to have paid a lower percentage of their total fee compared to other rights-holding broadcasters internationally because their agreement was signed off comparatively late. Most other broadcasters worldwide are said to have already paid between 50 and 60 per cent of the final total.

François Pellissier, TF1’s director of sports, told L’Équipe that the broadcaster and Uefa, as “good partners”, are “on the verge of finding an agreement”. He said that the discussions with Uefa are not “confrontational”.

TF1 was set to broadcast the Euro 2020 opener between Turkey and Italy in Rome this Friday.

Along with rights to the opening match, the rights secured by M6 and TF1 also include 11 other group-stage fixtures (including France’s matches), five last-16 matches, three quarter-final fixtures, both semi-finals and the final.

A pay-television deal for Euro 2020 was agreed by subscription broadcaster beIN Sports in January. The Qatar-backed broadcaster is paying around €35m for rights to all 51 matches, including 28 of them exclusively.

The last two editions of the European Championships have also been broadcast in France by beIN. Indeed, the broadcaster used the Euro 2012 tournament as a launchpad for its new service in France (as Al Jazeera Sport).

Mediapro, the agency and production group launching football subscription channels in France, was interested in the Euro 2020 rights but is said to have withdrawn from the race given the size of the rights fee asking price.