TV row comes back to bite Turkish football’s Super Lig rights sale
Turkish football provided one of the most bizarre stories of last year when Fenerbahce president Ali Koc waged a public relations war with broadcaster BeIN Sports.
Koc attempted to blame BeIN for bad results, cooking up an implausible conspiracy theory that it was manipulating replays shown to the video assistant referee to penalise his team.
He even went as far as displaying the slogan “BeFAIR” in the style of the broadcaster’s branding on pitchside advertising and T-shirts won by Fenerbahce players such as Mesut Ozil.
Although BeIN halted the campaign through legal action, the row left both parties bruised and 12 months on it is causing more profound repercussions for Turkish football.
The country’s Super Lig is facing up to a huge drop in the broadcasting revenue on which its teams depend as it finalises deals for next season and beyond.
Its current contract with BeIN, agreed in 2015, is worth $370m a year. Offers for the next cycle are believed to have reached around $150m a year, sources involved in the matter said.
BeIN, still unhappy at its treatment, declined an invitation from the Super Lig to renew its deal on the existing terms but is among the bidders.
Domestic media companies Saran Medya and Turk Telekomunikasyon have also made offers for the rights, which are being sold through international agency IMG.
Turkey’s top clubs, who have a say in the sale process, had been hoping to generate at least $250m a year from the rights sale.
The four biggest Super Lig teams – Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Besiktas and Trabzonspor – refinanced last year after running up debts of $750m.
Other European leagues have seen the boom in media rights value slow, while France saw a deal with MediaPro collapse, plunging clubs into difficulties.
Even the Premier League, the football’s biggest earning domestic competition whose media rights will top £10bn for the next three-year cycle, has seen UK growth plateau.
The Super Lig, dissatisfied with the offers, asked interested parties to revise their bids last week ahead. Hopes of a resolution as soon as Monday were fading this weekend.
A major sticking point for bidders has been Turkey’s piracy problem. Some studies estimate that there are twice as many viewers on illegal feeds as subscribers.
BeIN in particular is acutely sensitive to the issue, having been embroiled in a long-running dispute over piracy of its output in the Middle East.
The incumbent right-holder is, however, also reacting to being “treated shabbily by the league and one of its clubs”, said one source. “This is the BeFAIR stuff coming back to bite Turkish football.”