British Telecom TV Deal Could Answer Conference Cash Calls
Can BT plug the gap, because the disappearance of the Blue Square Premier official website yesterday is further evidence of The Conference’s inability to find sponsorship in the current Climate? Fear not fellow fans of the 24 at the apex of the non-league slippery pyramid, this is not a crisis as the split between the full 72 members was minimal, however ‘t committee need to be making those cash calls. Why bless them, on the plus side at least the Imps and our 23 immediate adversaries will have a ball to kick about, thanks to a 3 year deal with Jako, a German sports supplier.
Thank-you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
The Blue Square Bet deal had run for 6 years, but the £5 millions take over, by Betfair, meant the writing was on the wall as soon as the deal went through on 13th April. The final three year, deal that ran from 2010/11 to the end of last season, was worth around £400,000 per year. That is chicken feed compared to the Premier League, but it will still be missed all the same at a Head Quarters run on a shoestring budget. Perhaps of more concern is the fact that The Football League is still struggling to find a sponsor, suggesting the Conference could have an even harder task. Add the Conference’s new fair play ‘break even accounting’ rules and all but the big and solvent sides will struggle this season. That said corporate box and shirt sponsorship is also feeling the pinch throughout football world.
On the plus side, TV money, awash in the Premiership end of the game, could yet save The Conference blushes and, in turn, make sponsorship more attractive. We in the conference are of course poor relations compared to what News Corporation chief executive Robert Thomson recently described as ‘Britain is to football what Saudi Arabia is to oil and we have a gusher coming out of London of fantastic football content.’ Fortunately BT remain hungry for football content both on-line and on the box, seeing the Conference as they compete with Sky. The deal they seem days away from agreeing is also a huge increase on the previous, somewhat piecemeal affair.
When Setanta and ESPN had a deal doing, 65 matches were shown, however by the time Premier Sports took over the coverage had dropped to just 30 live games. Hardly the global audience a £400 million concern like Betfair would want to entertain is it? This also made the monthly subscriptions unattractive for fans and pubs or clubs so the Premier Sports model was economically unsustainable.
The deal that appears to be on the table comes in at £300,000 a year, just £100,000 shy of the missing BSP sponsorship money. This compares favourably to an appearance fee of £5,000 per home team plus a thousand for the away side, where the less TV worthy sides rarely got on. Should this be split collectively all sides would be quids in, however , given there will be 30 games shown in the first season pilot, should it be appearance based there would be £10,000 a game to split. As part of this first season suck-it-and see comes the internet rights, the lucrative on-demand streaming side that should revolutionise even the backwaters of the Conference.
There is still a chance that both the Football League and the Conference could do a combined deal with a bank similar to the Nationwide one, the forerunner to the BSP deal. As to whether that will match the £400,000 per annum remains to be seen, for only the Drinks, Gambling, Adult and Pay-Day lenders market segments, appear to have bucket-loads of free Wonga on the hip as the recession continues to bite deep.
The Conference will therefore need to strike oil, perhaps they should look to the Sky and give tycoon Robert Thomson a call. Or have they already done so? Our League is going to be raining footballs, but, could other stuff soon be streamed into our homes that could see income streams become rivers that boost if not burst our clubs banks? This would certainly appeal to Save The Mighty Imps and 3 other Lincoln fans, still unable to see home games at Sincil Bank.