A revamped Club World Cup would be a money-spinner for Manchester United and Europe’s other heavyweight clubs and potentially transform the way live sport is broadcast, according to Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman.
Fifa are pushing ahead with plans for a new 24-team Club World Cup to be held every four years, starting in 2021.
It is expected that there would be 12 teams from Europe invited, including United and Liverpool, with clubs standing to earn more than £100 million from the tournament.
Woodward believes such a move could not only create huge financial windfalls for the club involved but also signal the rise of streaming, or OTT (over-the-top) platforms, such as Amazon and Netflix, becoming increasingly powerful players in the battleground for live sport.
“Many of you will have seen reports of a $25 billion offer to Fifa, $12 billion of which is for four cycles of a revamped Club World Cup tournament between 2021 and 2033,” Woodward told investors on a conference call to discuss United’s third quarter accounts.
“The merits and details are being currently considered by Fifa and other stake holders and I don’t intend to go into them here.
“However, it highlights a few relevant points. It supports the view that OTT platforms will be the future of content consumption, live, compelling content will be a key battle ground for influences which are successful and whichever way the rapidly evolving media landscape unfolds content generators are uniquely placed to be the beneficiaries. As such, we continue to believe live sport content will become increasingly more valuable in the future.”
Woodward has spoken previously about how he expects digital giants, such as Amazon and Facebook, to gate-crash the bidding for streaming rights to Premier League football in the future. Earlier this month, Sky Sports lost the rights to broadcast Spain’s La Liga from next season to Eleven Sports, an over-the-top platform, meaning live football matches could be shown exclusively over the internet in the UK for the first time.
Woodward said the recent launch of United’s first YouTube channel had been a runaway success. “In terms of subscribers within the first hour we overtook the Dallas Cowboys and an hour later we overtook the [New York] Yankees,” he said. “The channel quickly became bigger than all US sports teams and with currently over 800,000 subscribers we’re the fastest growing sports club channel that has ever launched on YouTube.”
United have active subscribers to their MUTV direct consumer products in 115 markets around the world and Woodward said the club’s iOS app has reached No. 1 in the app stores sports category for downloads in 36 countries. United’s revenues for the third quarter were up eight per cent on the same three month period last year to £137.5 million.
United, meanwhile, expect to hear in the next fortnight if their application for a women’s football team has been successful.
“In March we applied to the Football Association to establish our first professional women’s team,” Woodward said. “We expect to hear whether our application has been successful at the end of this month and, if so, we will be entering a team into the league next season and look forward to creating a development pathway for our successful girls regional talent club.”