How the BBC has bid £400m of your money for European football which ITV got for £120m


Last updated at 22:19 29 February 2008

In football terms, the BBC is three-nil down to ITV with only a few minutes left on the clock.

Time then, corporation bosses have decided, to throw caution to the winds and use up to £400million of taxpayers' money on a bid to land the rights to broadcast Champions League games.

BBC sports chiefs are desperate to wrest top European football from ITV after the commercial channel poached the FA Cup and England internationals from them - leaving them with no top-drawer live football rights from the end of this season.

Scroll down for more..

BBC football bid

Top team: BBC football experts Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. The BBC has bid £400million for the rights to broadcast European football

They are so determined that presenters such as Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen are said to have been told that the deal will be done at all costs.

But critics are baffled at why the BBC is preparing to splash out millions of licence fee money on something that is already on terrestrial TV.

They are also outraged that the corporation looks likely to pay a massive premium on its bid to cover loss of revenue to the tournament caused by sponsors' adverts being barred from the BBC.

The timing of such an enormous bid is also controversial with the corporation shedding up to 1,800 jobs and cutting budgets on news and current affairs programmes.

ITV pays £120million for its three-year deal for the elite competition.

As part of this it has to mention six sponsors during its advertising breaks.

UEFA, European football's governing body, is believed to be looking to at least double the current £120million deal as the bidding process gets under way for the broadcasting rights from 2009-10.

On top of that, UEFA would expect the BBC to make up the revenue lost by not showing adverts for sponsors such as Ford and MasterCard, which get repeated exposure as official sponsors on the ITV coverage.

Insiders suggest the corporation would have to spend about £60million alone just to settle the shortfall caused by not showing adverts.


If the BBC decides to bid for the top two picks of games for both Tuesday and Wednesday, the corporation is expected to have to offer £400million.

A decision to take the top two games on one of the nights, as is the ITV deal, would cost in the region of £300million.

An insider said: "They are telling everybody they are going to win it at all costs. But the thing comes pre-sponsored.

"One assumes that if they cannot carry that sponsorship they will have to pay that out as well.

"This is what they mean presumably when they are saying they will do whatever it takes."

Conservative MP John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, said: "I think it does sound a huge amount of money at a time when the BBC claim to be strapped for cash.

"I don't think the BBC should just say we have got to have it come what may and we'll pay whatever sum is asked of us.

"They need to say is this the best use of licence fee payers' money and if the cost is too great then they should just stand aside."

He added: "The BBC always needs to bear in mind that if they are bidding for programming against another terrestrial broadcaster, then the viewers are going to have the opportunity to see that product whether or not the BBC decide to buy it."

Fellow Tory MP Philip Davies, who also sits on the committee, said: "This is money going down the drain because the coverage would be going on anyway.

"The licence fee is generating so much money for the BBC, while commercial rivals struggle with advertising revenues, that they can agree to pay more than anyone else."

John Beyer of pressure group Mediawatch UK said: "My worry is what other types of programme would suffer as a consequence of this high expenditure."

TV companies interested in the Champions League rights were believed to have met UEFA representatives last week.

The BBC refused to comment on the issue and any potential bid price.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now