Blatter spells out Infront vision for Russian football

Philippe Blatter, chief executive of the Infront Sports & Media agency, said his company’s interest in acquiring media rights for Russian football’s Premier League was based on the large potential for growth in the league’s popularity and commercial value.

Blatter, in an interview with Russian sports news website Sport Express, said the development of the country’s economy and sports industry, helped by the staging of the winter Olympics in 2014 and the football World Cup in 2018, and its 140 million population, meant the league had the potential to be one of the leading football leagues in Europe in commercial terms.

“It is a huge country with a tremendous sporting heritage. On the other hand, it is among the countries with rapidly growing economies,” he said.

“Studies by independent experts suggest that the amount of sponsorship funds in the country will grow at a pace slightly above 5 per cent per year… This is very interesting for us.”

Infront is in ongoing talks with the league and clubs about a deal. The league and clubs several weeks ago turned down an offer from the agency that would have involved it acquiring their domestic and international media rights for six seasons, from 2012-13 to 2017-18. The offer was made in partnership with state broadcaster VGTRK. The league and clubs said the money being offered – reported by the local press to be over $60 million (€46 million) per year – was too low.

Infront has identified four areas it would target to boost the value of league’s commercial rights: improvements in the quality of the television production of its matches, increases the number of matches broadcast both in Russia and abroad, expansion of the league’s sponsorship programme, and improvements in match attendances.

Blatter said the number of international rights deals that the league has could be increased once the league’s television product had been improved, including by tapping into the Russian diaspora in markets such as the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.

“Today the Russian championship is broadcast in about 20 countries. We believe that this number could be much increased by improving the product.”