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Premier League Gets Overseas TV Windfall
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Overseas television rights to English Premiership matches for the next three seasons have been sold for more than $1.2 billion on the back of booming demand from armchair fans in Asia and the Middle East, the FA Premier League announced on Thursday.

The organisation which runs England's 20-club top flight said that the sale of broadcasting rights in 81 overseas blocs covering 208 countries and territories would generate a total of 625 million pounds ($1.23 billion) over the course of the 2007/08, 08/09 and 09/10 seasons.

The total is twice the amount raised from the current overseas television deal and it will take the Premiership's total earnings from media and broadcasting rights over the three seasons to just over 2.7 billion pounds ($5.32 billion).

British and Irish television rights for the same period were sold last year for 1.7 billion pounds ($3.35 billion) while a deal for other media, mainly mobile phone and internet rights, is to raise a further 400 million pounds ($790 million).

The result of the cash bonanza is that the winner of next season's title will receive around 50 million pounds ($100 million) from prize money and their share of the television money.

The club that finishes bottom of the league can expect a figure in the region of 30 million pounds ($60 million) - the same as Chelsea received for winning the title last season.

Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chief executive, said the increase was driven by fierce competition for rights in Asia and the Middle East and underpinned by the willingness of clubs to open their doors to foreign players, managers and owners.

"We have a cosmopolitan approach to players and a cosmopolitan approach to ownership and that is paying off," Scudamore said.

"We have seen growth everywhere but the really big jumps have been in Asia and the Middle East.

"No territories have gone down but in some cases the rights have ended up being sold for three or four times the current amount."

One of the fiercest battles for rights was in Hong Kong, where Richard Li's telecommunications group PCCW bid 10 million pounds ($19.7 million) to claim the rights from the local cable television operator.

A fresh injection of cash into football will also inevitably increase concern over the earnings of players and agents and the widening gap between the sport's haves and have-nots.

(China Daily via AFP January 19, 2007)

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