Bogarelli and 2MG Media not giving up on planned new European league
By Martin Ross
Marco Bogarelli, a former leading figure at Infront Sports & Media and a veteran of many Serie A media rights sales auctions, is continuing to pursue the possibility of a new elite European league, although he admits that the project cannot come to fruition in the short term.
The industry veteran, who previously sounded out the market and held discussions about such a proposal during his time at Infront, has made a league for top clubs one of his main projects at 2MG Media, the rights consultancy he formed earlier this year with Giuseppe Ciocchetti, the former managing director at Infront Italy.
Bogarelli recently attended the Sportel trade fair under his new guise and just three months after a Milan court cleared him and Ciocchetti in a long-running probe into financial wrongdoing and collusion with broadcasters in the award of Serie A media rights.
Speaking to Sportcal about the plans for the new business, Bogarelli said: “I have the project of a European league and some other interests in Italy, France and Spain that are the mainly the target.”
He shies away from the ‘Super League’ label, claiming the term is ‘bad luck’, and is well-versed in the concept, having come the closest to getting such a competition up and running.
In 1998, Bogarelli teamed up with Rodolfo Hecht, the president of Media Partners, the Milan-based sports rights agency, to propose a rival tournament to the Uefa Champions League, offering clubs higher revenues than then on offer.
However, ‘Project Gandalf’ was scuppered by Uefa’s expansion of its premier tournament and the merging of the lower-tier Uefa Cup with the Cup Winners’ Cup.
In attempting to garner support for any breakaway plan, Bogarelli has shifted his focus from the clubs to the leagues, putting them at the centre of any project in the belief that their interests are not represented as effectively as those of the clubs and the federations.
Just when any European league project could come into force (pending the necessary financial and stakeholder backing) remains a huge question mark. The European Professional Football Leagues thrashed out a new Memorandum of Understanding with Uefa in June, effectively ending any threat of domestic games being scheduled up against European club matches and putting to bed talk of a breakaway.
The Team Marketing agency is also on course to satisfy the clubs by delivering record broadcast and sponsorship revenues for the 2018-21 cycle with the commercial appeal of the Uefa club competitions showing no signs of waning.
In addition, the European Club Association was afforded more power in the management of Uefa club competitions in its agreement with the continental federation after approving changes to the format for 2018-21, and is in favour of the Champions League maintaining its structure in the 2021-24 cycle.
Andrea Agnelli, the ECA chairman, said in September that he does not expect a “soap opera going forward as the Champions League is pretty much set for 2021-24.”
Asked just when a rival European league could come into force given the window of opportunity now seems to have passed, Bogarelli, who turns 61 next month, remarked: “We’re not talking about something that can happen tomorrow. For any kind of project that I’m following there is no short-term opportunity.”
He added: “There is a new concept that could be something even if Uefa has moved more in favour of the clubs. Still there are some opportunities to do better in order to create a clear separation between the professionals and the amateur.”
Bogarelli explored the European Super League notion during his time at Infront, with news emerging last year of talks with certain leagues about a new elite European tournament backed by Infront’s owner Wanda Group, the China-based multinational conglomerate.
That came during his short-lived stint as strategic European director at Wanda Sports Holding, a position he took up after standing down as operational head of Infront Italy.
However, Bogarelli always had to tread carefully at Infront given the agency’s ongoing work with various clubs, leagues and national associations.
Speaking three years ago about Europe’s elite competition, he backed an open system for participation with a ranking based on club turnover. A Champions League with the six biggest clubs from Italy, England, Spain, Germany and France would make sense, he said, questioning the wisdom that AC Milan and Manchester United have only met six times since the creation of the competition.
Bogarelli’s 2MG Media aims to secure private investment – be it from private equity firms, family offices, institutional investors or pension funds - to back media projects across sports and entertainment, believing that changes in technology leave rights-holders in a strong position to maximise their assets without taking all of the financial risk.
He observed: “I think there are opportunities because the content owner has easier access to the final consumer. And the financial market is huge and they have the size to make investments.”
On 2MG Media’s positioning in the market, he notes: “If you’re talking about properties in the long term, you’re talking about billions and billions. The size of the historical agencies mean they can’t guarantee billions.”
Work undertaken by 2MG Media since it launched in earnest in August has included advice to Italian soccer’s third-tier Serie C on its media right sales tender. That process yielded deals worth €2.5 million ($2.95 million) per season with Rai, the public-service broadcaster, and Sportitalia, the satellite and digital terrestrial broadcaster.
However, Bogarelli is not working with the top-tier Serie A on its domestic media rights auction given a non-compete clause he has with Infront until the end of this year.