Al Jazeera bid 'realistic' for English Premier League

Rebecca Hawkes | 29-02-2012

An approach by Al Jazeera Sport for the UK rights to broadcast live English Premier League football is to be expected, says Ross Hair, managing director of ESPN UK.

"We're expecting another Premier League auction in April or May. An Al Jazeera bid is a realistic option," he told the London Evening Standard.

"They have done something very interesting in France in buying first division football against the incumbent satellite broadcaster Canal Plus and we've also looked at what they've done in other markets.

"You can draw parallels with the upcoming auction in the UK. Al Jazeera have the ambition to grow further in sport and into other markets," Hair added.

Pay-TV operators Sky Sports and the Walt Disney-owned ESPN currently hold the rights to broadcast live Premier League matches in the UK. This domestic rights deal has earned the Premier League 1.782 billion over three years.

Al Jazeera declined to comment on the mounting speculation linking the Qatar-based network to a bid for the UK rights to the English Premier League.

In December the outfit bought the broadcasting rights to French Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League within France, and has since added UEFA Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 to its increasingly impressive football portfolio for France.

Al Jazeera Sport currently also holds the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) rights for the FA Cup and also the UEFA Champions League - coverage of which is anchored by Gary Lineker and produced by ITV in London. It will also be the exclusive broadcaster across the Arab world for the FIFA World Cup in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

Rival Gulf company Abu Dhabi Media, owner of the Abu Dhabi Sports pay-TV channels, currently holds the exclusive MENA rights to the English Premier League. However, Al Jazeera Sport is also expected to bid for the rights to show the prestigious English football league across the Arab world when overseas bidding for the 2013-14 season begins.