July 20, 2024
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Canada Soccer Business Medipro Dispute

New Details Emerge In Canadian Soccer Business, Mediapro Dispute

By on January 26, 2024 1 5618 Views

More information has emerged regarding the legal action between Canadian Soccer Business and its former broadcast partner Mediapro.

Both sides released statements yesterday claiming the other party was at fault in a contractual breakdown that has led to Canadian Soccer Business saying that it had reclaimed the domestic broadcast rights for the Canadian national team, Canadian Championship, and the Canadian Premier League, and had filed a notice of action against Mediapro.

Meanwhile, Mediapro is seeking damages of at least $50 million, court costs, and a declaration that the Barcelona-based company was within its right to terminate the deal, while Canadian Soccer Business’ notice of action stated it was Mediapro who had fallen significantly flat on both rights payments along with production, broadcast, and distribution promises.

The matter currently rests with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Canadian Premier League 905 Derby
Photo Credit: John Jacques

Mediapro’s statement of claim – which is 32 pages long, as per Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press – alleges that the CSB has failed to deliver core promises at the midway point of their ten-year agreement. As we surmised yesterday, one of those is that the league hasn’t met its expansion targets which were initially set for 10 by 2020 and 16 by 2024, a goal put forth ahead of the COVID 19-pandemic.

The statement also claims that Canadian Soccer Business set a required target of 2,042 CPL and Canadian Championship matches by 2028, a milestone that saw progress heavily impeded by the lack of expansion clubs. At the midway point of the agreement, the number of games is just over a quarter of where they were allegedly obligated to be at by 2028.

The Barcelona-based media company didn’t hold back from harsh words in its statement of claim, stating that the Canadian Premier League has ‘remained stagnant at eight teams since 2020 and shows signs of decline rather than growth’, though CPL commissioner Mark Noonan told fans the league would grow by two teams in 2025 and ‘at least two more’ in 2026.

The statement also claims that Canadian Soccer Business provided no reasonable prospect that it will fulfill its obligations within the agreed-upon term, with Mediapro stating that it has invested $60 million in capital expenditures, operation and production costs, and license fees thus far, though the company also admitted it had only paid 25% of the rights fees owed for 2023.

The ten-year deal was penned in 2019, with Mediapro having been set to invest $200 million overall over the course of the agreement. The filing from Mediapro says the company was due to pay CSB an annual licensing fee ranging from $5 million in 2019 to $14 million in 2028, with the ten-year licensing fee between the two running an agreed-upon total of $87 million including sports betting rights and digital platform rights for the CSB’s assets.

The duo had also agreed to share sponsorship revenue from commercial inventory evenly, while CSB would provide an annual minimum of guaranteed payments for the first three years of the deal ($1 million in 2019, $2 million in 2020, and $3 million in 2021).

OneSoccer 2020 Schedule

Canadian Soccer Business says that Mediapro did not meet its contractual obligations, including the failure to deliver a sub-licensing arrangement for linear television broadcasting that would bring CSB properties to a much greater audience. Rather than coming to terms with such a mainstream medium, OneSoccer found itself embroiled in a CRTC complaint.

The CSB also states that Mediapro flubbed on a number of other obligations beyond the due payment of its rights (which were set for $6 million in 2023, with only 25% reportedly being paid), with the linear television flop and a failure to carry out the required marketing of OneSoccer also amassing to contractual failures.

This isn’t the first time Mediapro has fallen into rights disputes for a failure to pay, with the company having left France’s top flight stranded by falling flat on payments just four months into their agreement.

“Mediapro’s conduct and failure to abide by its duty to perform the agreement in good faith also warrant a significant punitive damages award in the circumstances,” read the CSB statement, though at press time we are unclear on how much damages the CSB is seeking.

“Mediapro has delivered on its bargain,” came the counter. “CSB has materially failed to do so and provides no reasonable prospect of doing so within the agreed upon term.”

Mediapro alleges that the CSB’s conduct prior to the legal dispute constitutes anticipatory repudiation of the contract, which is why Mediapro claims that it is entitled to terminate the deal from their own end.

Forge FC Tristan Borges
Photo Credit: John Jacques

The claims of either side have yet to be proven in court, with the matter now submitted to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

With OneSoccer currently without the rights to its core Canadian properties, there are growing questions and concerns regarding to the employment status within the Mediapro-owned company. The financial status of Mediapro itself is also a concern, with the Barcelona-based company refinancing its debts in 2022, with majority owner Southwind Group reportedly looking to sell as much as an 80% stake this past fall.

For now, it remains to be seen how the courts view the arguments put forth from either side.

Sources we’ve reached out to in the CSB state there is confidence that the organization’s properties – including the men’s and women’s national teams and the country’s domestic top flight – will have accessible ways to view matches when they arrive in the near future.

Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques

1 Comment
  • James 6 months ago

    Sounds like both sides are a hot mess and neither is in any position to claim contractual superiority over the other.

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