Is It Copa Libertadores Time?

Despite the lucrative TV deals negotiated annually in this country, one thing remains the same: South American football is still nowhere to be seen.

British viewers have been given a taste of what the game is all about there in recent times though, thanks to the screenings of the 2018 and 2019 Copa Libertadores finals on BT Sport and the BBC respectively.

According to BARB viewing figures, 600,000 people tuned into BBC Two to watch Flamengo and River Plate contest the Copa Libertadores final in November 2019.

While this is modest audience for a Saturday night, this number does indicate that a market has emerged, albeit a rather niche one.

This match had a remarkably dramatic climax, with Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa notching twice late on for Flamengo to snatch the title away from River Plate.

The setting of the Copa Libertadores Final 2019: El Estadio Monumental, Lima.
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The two-legged Superclásico clash between River Plate and Boca Juniors the previous year also proved to be a great advert for the tournament considering everything which is embedded in that particular rivalry.

South American football’s best talent may ultimately leave for Europe, but at the start and end of their career, most of these players aspire to lift the Copa Libertadores trophy, and some fulfil that aspiration:

Youngsters rising to prominence and the homecoming of veterans are reasons cited by Austin Miller (@austin_miller906), the assistant editor of @TheLibertadores, for keenly covering the Copa Libertadores for his job:

“Watching the stars of tomorrow develop in such a meaningful competition is so rewarding. Most recently, I can recall the likes of Lautaro Martinez at Racing Club and Gabriel Jesus at Palmeiras becoming world beaters because they were given that platform to flourish.

“It’s fair to say that the ability to watch veterans eventually come home and play for the clubs they’ve loved their entire career is just something you don’t find in a lot of competitions around the world,” he said.

Miller and first, Simon Edwards (@SimonEdwardsSAF), a South American Football journalist based in Colombia, gave their thoughts on what makes the Copa Libertadores so special:

South American football was once regularly televised on ITV, and many people have taken to Twitter to push for Copa Libertadores coverage on UK television.

Most fixtures wouldn’t disrupt the television schedule on account of the late-night kick-off times; yet paradoxically, this could now actually be the pitfall in any attempt to strike a rights deal.

CONMEBOL, the South American Football Federation, can command huge fees for its Copa Libertadores television rights, so British broadcasters might not envisage enough remunerative potential in the acquisition of these rights due to the smaller audiences at such a time of the day.

A solution could be on the horizon however, in the form of DAZN, the burgeoning over-the-top subscription sports streaming service dubbed the ‘Netflix of Sport’.

The newest player in the sports broadcasting industry.
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Last year, DAZN secured the exclusive broadcast rights until 2022 for the Copa Libertadores as well as the Copa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League) in Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Austria.

Bearing in mind that these countries share a similar time zone to the UK and the DAZN launch in the UK is expected later this year, perhaps we just need to be patient.

Feature Image Credit: Reuters

Leave a Comment