BBC bids £400m for Champions League games

Last updated at 21:12 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.

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Top team: BBC football experts Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson

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.

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


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


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


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


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 can-not 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


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