Bundesliga envies Premier League television deal

NESHA STARCEVIC (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The Bundesliga is looking on with envy at the latest English Premier League television deal and is ready to take unpopular measures in an attempt to negotiate a more lucrative contract.

Bundesliga officials say they are not surprised by the Premier League's $8 billion deal for domestic rights from 2016-19, but now want an ''honest discussion'' on how they can close the gap.

The Bundesliga's current deal with Sky Germany brings in an average of 628 million euros ($715 million) per season - about four times less than the new Premier League deal.

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Any discussion is bound to include ways of staggering and extending the match schedule.

In Germany, this is known as a ''salami'' schedule and is vehemently opposed by fans. Previous attempts to stagger kickoff times failed in the face of fan opposition. Saturday night matches were doomed by poor ratings conditioned by long-time family viewing habits and quickly disappeared.

Now, the weekend schedule starts with one match Friday evening, five on Saturday afternoon simultaneously, one late afternoon game and two Sunday matches at different times. The league also takes a long winter break that this season started the weekend before Christmas and ended on the last weekend in January.

The Premier League, meanwhile, continues with a crowded schedule through the holidays.

Bundesliga officials find it difficult to believe that England's last-place club can earn more than Bayern Munich in television money.

The Bundesliga will negotiate a new deal next year and it will go into force in 2017.

''We need an honest discussion in the league: are we ready, looking at the new television contract, to take unpopular measures, if necessary, to be able to keep the best players in the world in the Bundesliga,'' said the league's CEO, Christian Seifert.

Klaus Allofs, managing director of Wolfsburg, said there must be ''no taboo subjects.'' He said the league had retained a compact weekend schedule to accommodate fans' wishes, ''but there will have to be compromises.''

His Moenchengladbach colleague Max Eberl said ''traditions may have to be broken'' to stay competitive financially.

The reaction of fans, who consider the 3:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff time to be sacred, came quickly: ''No to the English model'' read a banner unfurled by Bayern Munich supporters.

Pro Fans, an umbrella group of supporters, has written an open letter to the league demanding the elimination of Friday matches and rejecting any more staggering of the schedule.

The Spanish league has approved a plan to centralize TV rights' sales in a model similar to England's that, it hopes, will lead to a more equitable distribution of revenues. The current Spanish deal is skewed in favor of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Italy's Serie A, weighed down by fan violence, racism and crumbling stadiums, receives most of its money from domestic TV rights, earning an estimated 857 million euros (nearly $1 billion) per season.

The Spanish and Italian leagues both play more staggered schedules than the Bundesliga and, as examples, may be cited when the German officials begin appraisals for their own future deal.

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