Al Jazeera interest threatens TV shake-up

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Football News

The influence of Middle Eastern money on the football world could develop even further in the not too distant future, it has been claimed, as TV broadcaster Al Jazeera consider bidding for rights to air Premier League matches.

Sky and the ESPN currently share pay-for-view coverage in the UK following the £1.78 billion deal for the rights to cover matches between 2010 and 2013.

Al Jazeera, though, could threaten the supremacy of these broadcasters at the next Premier League auction in the coming months, similarly to how they have operated in France.

The Qatar-based broadcaster will show Ligue 1 from next season and also the majority of Champions League matches shown in France, according to the Evening Standard.

But acquiring rights to broadcast Premier League rights would be the jewel in the crown for Al Jazeera and, says ESPN boss Ross Hair, a bid is likely.

"We're expecting another Premier League auction in April or May. An Al Jazeera bid is a realistic prospect," he told Standard Sport.

"They have done something very interesting in France in buying first division football against the incumbent satellite broadcaster Canal Plus and we've also looked at what they've done in other markets.

"You can draw parallels with the upcoming auction in the UK. Al Jazeera have the ambition to grow further in sport and into other markets."

It is this ambition of Al Jazeera that will prove to be a concern for the likes of Sky and ESPN, and serves as further evidence of Qatar emerging as a serious superpower in football.

The decision last year to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup came as a huge shock but, a decade from now, it is a distinct possibility that it will be the most prominent power in the sport.

This, of course, is no bad thing, and the investment of Qatari billions across Europe has saved faltering clubs and made for greater competition both domestically and on the continent.

Paris Saint-Germain, Malaga and to a lesser extent, Palermo, have all been significantly boosted by Qatar-based businesses and it is seemingly likely further investment will spread to England.

But, naturally, a move that could have a more significant impact for all 20 teams in the Premier League will be for Al Jazeera to oust ESPN and win the rights to cover matches from the 2013/14 season.

ESPN currently broadcast 23 matches a season, and they are reported to have paid £160 million for which to do so.

Despite the interest of Al Jazeera, ESPN believe maintaining a foothold in football is imperative and they rejected the opportunity to bid for rights to show international and domestic cricket in order to focus on restoring Premier League coverage.

But Al Jazeera are considered to be a serious threat and, should they trump ESPN later this year, they may well challenge the supremacy of Sky in the future.

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