THE PREMIER League is bracing itself for a sponsorship bidding war if Barclays decides to pull out of the deal next year, it emerged yesterday.
The high street lender, which has sponsored the league since 2001, is mulling plans to end the £40m a year deal when the rights come up for renewal in 2015.
A number of companies are thought to have been in touch with the League about sponsoring the division in the past, and Barclays’s departure could prompt a flurry of bids for the deal.
The League will seek to strike another deal in 2015 for the three seasons until 2018-19, but it is thought Barclays no longer has an exclusive period to renew the rights this time.
Instead, the Premier League will go out to the market to find a buyer, which could see Barclays forced into an expensive bidding war. Barclays paid £120m to renew the three-year contract in 2012, giving it sponsorship rights until the 2015-16 season. This was 45 per cent more than it paid in 2009 when it stumped up £82.25m to renew the contract.
Premier League TV rights have already been subject to a bidding war between BSkyB and BT, which drove prices up 70 per cent. Further increases are predicted in the next round of bidding in 2015. A similar rise of between 50-70 per cent in the title sponsorship would drive the value up to between £60m and £68m a year, a price Barclays would have to justify to shareholders.
Cash-rich gambling firms that have strong associations with UK football could be candidates to make an approach if Barclays leaves the stage, although it is thought the Premier League may be less inclined to choose a betting company for reputational reasons.
Other companies with a long association sponsoring football include Coca-Cola, Carling – which was the original sponsor of the Premier League – and current FA Cup sponsors Budweiser, although none of these are currently known to have approached the League in anticipation of Barclays not bidding again.