MUMBAI (Reuters) - The sheer competitiveness of the Premier League makes it extremely attractive for broadcasters and gives its clubs the financial might to lure top talent from around the world, a former league executive has told Reuters.
The English Premier League signed a jaw-dropping 5.136 billion pounds ($6.66 billion) domestic TV rights deal in 2015 for three seasons starting 2016-17, significantly increasing its financial dominance over rival leagues.
English champions Chelsea earned 150.8 million pounds from the Premier League, while bottom side Sunderland were paid more than Leicester City received as the 2016 title winners thanks to the new contract.
“Broadcasters are rational, commercial organisations and pay what they feel is right,” Nic Coward, who worked as the Premier League’s general secretary for more than four years from 2011, said in an interview.
”I am sure the Premier League will continue to do what it can to make sure its content is as compelling, competitive and (essential) as it ever has been.
“The way in which the commercial world then responds to that is by the rights fees they will pay.”
Leicester, who were 5,000-1 outsiders at the start of the 2015-16 season, showcased the intense competition in the English top flight with their success, by proving that any side was capable of beating another on any given day.
Coward, who works as a consultant for India’s Pro Kabaddi League, believes the fair distribution of broadcast revenues allows all 20 clubs in the league to attract top talent.
The strength of the league was further underlined by attendances at stadiums, Coward said.
“Great players in a seriously atmospheric stadium and putting on a great show; that’s the Premier League’s business model,” he said.
”You then have 20 clubs in the Premier League who are in the top levels of buying power of talent around the world. That has got to be a very good thing for the league.
“Competitive balance, that’s what the Premier League delivers and that’s the Premier League’s strength.”
While Spanish clubs have many of the world’s leading players, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, La Liga has often been criticised for a lack of competition.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have won all but one league title between them in the last 15 seasons, with Atletico Madrid emerging winners in the 2013-14 season, which most critics blame on a wide gulf in resources.
Under the previous model, every La Liga club had to negotiate individual TV deals, which created a very unequal share of revenue. But a bill was passed in 2015 to ensure a collective sale of TV rights both domestically and overseas.
“Great credit to the leadership of La Liga, who over the last maybe three-four years have gone through the process with the clubs of moving from individual selling of broadcasting rights, which created a very skewed or unequal revenue share of the total broadcast revenue pie,” Coward said.
”So La Liga’s distribution difference (between the top and bottom club)... is down to the smallest it has ever been. I think it’s down to just below 4:1. I remember talking about it being 10:1 and 12:1.
“I know La Liga’s aspiration would be to be as competitive throughout the entire league as the Premier League. That’s got to be its ambition.”
La Liga has also had to deal with negative headlines surrounding fraud cases for its leading players in Spain.
Ronaldo, Portugal’s all-time leading scorer, was the latest in a long line of global stars -- among them Barcelona’s Messi and Neymar -- to be caught up in cases concerning tax or transfers.
It was, however, difficult to say what impact the cases would have on the La Liga, said Coward, adding that the Premier League was absolutely committed and made a concerted effort that these issues do not happen.
“The test of time will be what the attending fans’ and the viewing fans’ reaction to that is,” Coward said.
“The clubs and La Liga will be working incredibly hard to make sure that everything they can influence, which is ultimately the product, what happens on the field of play, is the best it can be.”
($1 = 0.7712 pounds)
Editing by John O'Brien