Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1840
TUESDAY 17 JANUARY 2006
Mr Brian Barwick and Mr Simon Johnson
Q1840 Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen:
How many games are there in the FA Cup on average?
Mr Barwick: On any FA Cup weekend from the third
round to the sixth round there are four matches, three on the
BBC and one on Sky, and then in the replays they have one each.
Q1841 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
Could you help me understand the sponsorship aspect of your income?
Out of the £206 million, you have already said that the largest
proportion is from television rights. Roughly, what is the figure
for sponsorship income?
Mr Johnson: Again, I do not think that is public
either. We have tended to just report it grouped together. To
explain how that comes about, we currently have five partners,
five sponsors, of the Football Association, each with the right
to have branding representation around the FA Cup and the England
team, and then we have specific responsibly for particular areas
of the game. For example, Nationwide have an involvement with
England teams right the way through the levels; Carlsberg have
a role with our other trophies, such as the FA Trophy and the
FA Vase. So we have had what we call in our building a pillar
arrangement where each sponsor is able to take a part and associate
themselves with a part of our activities. That obviously knits
quite neatly together with the television exposure. Quite clearly,
sponsors will want to know what sort of exposure on television
they are going to get before they enter into a negotiation with
us. The two are tied together.
Q1842 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
Would those pillars or packages that you sell to a sponsor for
the whole season cross over both BBC and Sky television exposure
or would they all be BBC or all Sky?
Mr Johnson: We do not sell the broadcast sponsorship
element of it. The BBC, of course, cannot have sponsorship. The
ability to have Sky, or if it were ITV, and to have a little commercial
going into the break is not something that we can sell.
Q1843 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
I am not talking about commercials and breaks but the visibility
on screen of "Carlsberg" or whatever it is.
Mr Barwick: Visibility on screens comes in several
ways. For example, in the interviews after the games you will
often see a backdrop which is commercially driven.
The point is this. The company takes that ability into account,
that it is going to be shown on the BBC, just as it is going to
be shown on ITV and Sky?
Mr Johnson: Yes.
Q1845 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
To pursue the point, although of course the BBC is not selling
sponsorship, you are selling sponsorship?
Mr Johnson: I think we are selling exposure.
You can then have a perimeter board around the game.
Q1846 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
You are selling exposure and Carlsberg or the insurance company
or the bank, whoever it is, has the comfort of knowing that for
that money they will be seen not just by the fans at the ground
but by people sitting at home watching it on television?
Mr Johnson: That is correct.
Q1847 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
If I could come back to the question which is preoccupying me,
it is this. We have already identified that there is perhaps a
proportion of 5:1 of viewers at home watching BBC as opposed to
Sky, and, even with the qualification Mr Barwick made, it might
be 3:1. There are a lot more BBC viewers and therefore, from the
sponsor's point of view, that is more attractive because their
brand name will have greater exposure if it is a larger audience
for the BBC. What I am trying to work out is this. In designing
these pillars or packages, do you deliberatelythere is
nothing wrong with this but I want to understand itput
together a mixture of the less widespread exposure of Sky with
the greater exposure of the BBC?
Mr Johnson: It is possibly not as stark as that.
What I explained to you about the pillars is what we have had
for the last few years. What we have announced going forward is
to have a particular partner who will be able directly to associate
themselves with the FA Cup, and a particular partner that will
be able to associate themselves with the England Senior Men's
Team, as well as other involvement with other parts of our products.
When we are out in the market talking to potential sponsors, we
are explaining to them what they will get at the ground, what
they will get around the events, and what they can expect to get
in terms of exposure. There is not a direct correlation between
the price that we get and where we are a broadcast.
Mr Barwick: I can add that there are other ways
of commercial people exploiting their association with us. It
can be a photograph of the player on a pack of biscuits or whatever,
on any commercial goods, or indeed the use of players at events
that commercial companies wish to use. There is a number of ways
that a commercial company can have an association with us. One
of the ways, obviously, is by exposure through our television
Q1848 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
It would be fair to say that that is the primary thing because
the primary thing is: how many people at home am I going to get
for this sponsorship?
Mr Barwick: Historically, it has been.
Q1849 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
Although there are refinements to that, that is the primary thing?
Mr Barwick: Yes.
Q1850 Lord Holme of Cheltenham:
I am still puzzled. It means, therefore, that any pound paid by
the BBC is geared up, from your point of view, in sponsorship
income because by definition the BBC audience is bigger? At the
top line, when you look at your income for the exploitation of
broadcast rights, you may well be getting, as it were, a premium
from Sky, but, when it comes to the sponsorship component of your
income, if I am right, it is highly related to the audience delivered,
which must automatically make to a potential sponsor the BBC more
attractive and therefore your sponsorship income, whatever your
broadcast income, must be weighted towards the BBC audiences,
which are larger. Is that right or not?
Mr Barwick: It would be easier to say "free
to air. It happens to be the BBC at the moment; it is free to
air. The rest of what you surmise is pretty correct.
Q1851 Lord Maxton:
You do not have total control of sponsorship. Each individual
club presumably has its own jerseys, for instance?
Mr Barwick: Exactly, and we have just our piece
of the action.
Q1852 Lord Peston:
We have talked a bit about competition already, so we do not need
to go over that ground again. You mentioned, I think, Mr Johnson,
the European Commission. Presumably you have seen the evidence
they gave. They have invented this peculiar thing of the six packages,
as I understand it, and you cannot buy more than five. One immediate
question is: do you see that as somehow at least an improvement
of some sort? Let us start with that?
Mr Johnson: If I was at ITV, I would have a
comment to make on whether it is an improvement from their perspective.
What would that be? I get the impression that that would not be
Mr Johnson: On the question of whether that
way of packaging the rights is helpful for the sports marketremember
we are looking at this as sellerswhat we were pleased about
with the European Commission was that they supported the principle
of collective selling. I think we always felt, and we supported
the Premier League very strongly in this, that the European Commission
was wrong to argue that the principle of collective selling was
a breach of competition. I think we are glad that that is their
outcome. The specific outcome they seem to have come up with in
relation to the Premier League I think is specific to the Premier
League and their circumstances as to how they sell their rights,
to whom and how they package it. From our perspective, we are
right now evaluating how we might put our rights out on to the
market. We do not need to go out to the market for another year
or so. Our rights have another two and a bit years still to run
and so we are evaluating what we ought to do. Obviously it is
of interest to us that that is the way that the Premier League
might be selling its rights, but we also take a look at how UEFA
are selling their rights to the Champions League and how other
sports deal with their own rights. We consider how best we think
that we should get value for ourselves, generate competition and
help to meet the objectives that I read out a few moments ago.
We are interested to see how the Premier League rights might go
and whether what we have done has the impact of creating more
buyers in the market than might have been the case last time they
Mr Barwick: The interesting thing from my perspective
is that we are selling our rights after the Premier League sold
their rights. We will have the benefit of knowing how they spend
On this business of having three on BBC and one on Sky, to some
extent you have already done what the Premier League are being
Mr Barwick: That happens to be the configuration
of the current deal. As a broadcaster, I have worked for the FA
Cup on other occasions when the deal has not been struck that
way. In fact, I worked at one period of time in ITV where the
split was different and what you would call the main glamour game
in the FA Cup went to Sky as the first choice. I was working in
ITV then, so we used to get the second choice. I always remember
when the cup draw was made, a fantastic game would come out of
the hat and everyone would think "great", and I would
remind them that was on Sky and we had to wait for the next one.
There is a reconfiguration in this current deal whereby the BBC
has what would be, before a ball is kicked, potentially the best
Q1855 Lord Peston:
You are clearly right on collective selling because what is being
sold is the competition and, even if you take a great club like
Manchester United, if they have not got the competition to play
in, gradually no-one would want to watch them. The important point
I suppose for us is that you are the governing body of the game.
Did the European Commission consult you at all in all of this
or, if not, did you tell them?
Mr Johnson: We have dealt directly with the
European Commission in a number of areas. They are doing an investigation
on mobile rights and internet rights. We have directly responded
to that. I have to say that since I have been at the Football
Association, this past calendar year, we did not directly respond
to a request from the European Commission. As I said earlier,
we did co-operate with the Premier League when we were asked to
because the attack was on the basis of collective selling and
about the way that rights are sold into the market. Certainly,
while I have been at the Football Association, I am not aware
that we have been directly asked to contribute to the European
Q1856 Lord Peston:
This is a hypothetical question, so I will give you a chance not
to answer it. If you did feel, in due course, that what was actually
happening, because you are the governing body, was not in the
interests of the whole game, would you feel able to say in public,
"We are not happy with what is going on"?
Mr Johnson: I am fairly certain, and thank goodness
it is a hypothetical question, that if the European Commission
had decided that the whole principle of collective selling was
anti-competitive and therefore illegal, we would not just have
publicly come out and said that but we would have made formal
representations to the European Commission about that. I think
that was an issue wider than maybe the Premier League.
What do you think they may have come out and said?
Mr Johnson: I think that every time the European
Commission has examined the way that rights are sold, whether
that is the UEFA Champions League case, the Bundesliga case which
they examined, and the Premier League, they have started off by
attacking the principle of collective selling. In fact, our competition
authorities, if you remember, at the Restrictive Trade Practices
Court examined this question at the end of the Nineties. Everybody
has examined collective selling from a competition perspective,
and no competition authority has concluded that it is anti-competitive.
We would endorse that; we always have done.
Mr Barwick: Returning again to my previous life,
I always believed collective selling was the only way you could
actually broadcast the right: you need a beginning, a middle and
an end of an event.
Going back to your previous life, if you were still in charge
of BBC sports, would you be bidding for one in six of the Premiership
Mr Barwick: I am not where I used to be and
I will watch with interest when the person who currently is does,
or does not.
Chairman: That is a very frank answer.
Q1859 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Listening again to the six aims that you have, I wondered whether
the BBC does provide a sufficiently high profile for, say, women's
and youth football and to support their development, given the
real element of public service broadcasting in what they do.
Mr Barwick: I think I can be positive in the
answer to that. Euro 2005, which was the first time the Women's
European Championships had been held in this country, was a massively
successful event at all levels; firstly, on the level of playing,
it was a great event and because it happened outside the regular
season, it had a terrific profile. We managed, through really
hard work at the FA, to get a lot of people to go and see it.
It was great because they were mums and dads and boys and girls.
There was a really good feeling at the games. We had an England
team that did extremely well because for us it is the fastest
growing element of our sport; in fact, women's football is the
fastest growing women's sport in the country. The BBC covered
every England game live and the final. They did highlights every
night during the competition. In fact, on a Saturday evening when
England played I think Sweden, there were 3.5 million people watching
BBC2 at 8 o'clock in the evening, which is probably close to what
the Lottery has on the other side. They worked very hard at supporting
the event and we thanked them for that. They also carried the
Women's Cup Final. This is moving in the right direction.