Dr Joseph Muscat and Alan Abela

Malta Premier League income will increase by 800%

The Malta Premier League 2024/25 is set to kick-off on August 17 with a new format and new sponsorships as the MPL aims to make the competition competitive, attractive and sustainable.

Malta Premier League chairman Dr Joseph Muscat and Premier League Limited Chairman Alan Abela explained in detail the format of the competition which will see clubs play a minimum of 32 games, up from the 26 matches which team will play this season. This format will be retained for a minimum of two years.

Dr Muscat stressed that the objectives of the MPL were to make the league competitive, attractive and sustainable.

With regards to making the league more competitive, Dr Muscat said that this format will provide for more head-to-head clashes. He said Premier League clubs had voted in favour of the introduction of play-offs, the number of foreign players and the introduction of a youth development pot which encourages teams to use more youth local players and the reduction in the number of teams from fourteen to twelve.

Dr Muscat said the MPL aimed at making the league more attractive. He said that the attendance for Premier League matches was one of the top priorities although whether this will improve or not in the coming two years was something yet to be seen, even taking into consideration the possibility of a team like Valletta being relegated.

The MPL said that with regards to the broadcasting of Premier League matches, clubs will be making a policy reversal and Public Broadcasting Services, with whom the MPL have reached an agreement as Broadcasting Partner, will be given the possibility to broadcast all matches, and not just two per weekend.

“We believe that the more you broadcast games, initially there would be a decrease in the number of spectators but eventually, more people would be watching the games and taking interest and in the medium term, more people would be encouraged to go to the stadium to watch matches,” said Dr Muscat.

“There is a captive audience as a large number of people are watching football programmes on TV. We want to increase that captive audience, engage it and encourage it to attend stadiums.”

PBS will have the full rights for live transmission but the other local stations would receive the highlights which they could broadcast.

Dr Muscat revealed that the MPL opted not to receive the sum of €75,000 which PBS used to pay to get the TV rights. He said that at the end of the day, the share the clubs would have received was minimal and therefore PBS will be using this amount to improve the level of TV production and offer a better product.

The MPL chairman added that the Malta Premier League entered a consortium of nineteen small leagues to sell international rights for local games. He said that any money generated would be used to further invest.

With regards to sustainability, Dr Joseph Muscat said that the MPL will start to focus on the sustainability of the league and eventually clubs would become sustainable themselves. He said that for the time being, the league is making losses with the Malta FA spending more for the Premier League than the income it generates.

Dr Muscat revealed that the first objective of the MPL was that the league would make a profit within the first five years. However, in the first year, due to the change in format, the league attracted a number of new sponsors, including a title sponsor which will be revealed in the coming weeks. The income of the league will increase by 800% and therefore from the first year, a profit will be generated. He said that this meant that this new structure will generate money and eventually will be able to pay dividends to clubs.

Dr Joseph Muscat said that the Malta Premier League want to make watching football at the stadium “cool”‘, saying Malta national rugby team matches was a benchmark. He said the MPL has to focus on this as it was difficult for the Malta FA to do so, considering the different sectors it caters for. Dr Muscat added that the MPL took a number of risks including the format and the broadcasting of matches – PBS can broadcast all matches. He added that following discussions with PBS, there would be a change in how matches are filmed. Premier League Limited would eventually have its own productions, citing social media channels of a number of clubs who provide an excellent product. The calculated risks the MPL was taking would hopefully lead to a positive effect in the long run.

The MPL attended a number of specialised fairs in a bid to attract an international sponsor. There is also a deal with an international secondary sponsor which would also include the national team following an agreement with the Malta FA.

The MPL chairman said that his role and that of the chairman of Premier League Limited – the joint-venture between the MFA and the MPL – Alan Abela was to make this business model work but it was important that the ‘recipe’ had to change.

The format was presented to UEFA and according to Dr Muscat, who had the support of European Leagues – the Association of European Professional Football Leagues, UEFA showed particular interest in this new format as there are currently a number of countries who are considering changing their league format with the introduction of play-offs. In fact, the MPL chairman added that some leagues are considering Malta’s adoption of this format as a test case.

UEFA itself adopted new formats for its club competitions as according to Dr Muscat, everyone was trying to make experiments since traditional formats were not entertaining enough as football was competing with other sources of entertainment. He said the MPL decided to take the risk

Following the exchange of correspondence between the Malta Premier League and UEFA, there was a meeting with the UEFA Deputy General Secretary and officials from the Competitions Committee.

Dr Muscat said that the format which was originally submitted had to be tweaked as for example, UEFA was against the original proposal that the team placing first in the Opening Round would automatically secure a place in the UEFA Conference League and that is why the idea of the Final Four was introduced.

After explaining the possible permutations of this new format for the Malta Premier League as from season 2024/25, Dr Muscat said that next in line was the announcement of the new sponsor which will have the naming rights which will be an international sponsor. Then the new branding for the Malta Premier League would be revealed and officially launched.

Draws for the Malta Premier League 2024/25 Opening Round will take place on July 3 and rather than using the manual draw as it was the case so far, the draw will be done through an algorithm which will plan the calendar which should guarantee that there will be interesting matches every match-day. After the end of the Opening Round, another draw will be held for the Closing Round.

Dr Muscat explained that there will be a number of mid-week programmes and the plan is to have big matches on Fridays. He argued that while the MPL think a football calendar running from February to September will be beneficial for the local game with respect to teams taking part in European football but acknowledged that this would affect the calendar in the other leagues and therefore the MFA would have the change the whole ecosystem. He said this was not easy since whereas the Premier League is professional, the National Amateur League was not. Dr Muscat added that thirty two match days sit comfortably in the current calendar, also considering the fact that rather than stopping for two weeks before an international window, the league will stop for one week and a half with a match-day played in the mid-week. Earlier this week, Premier League clubs have approved the calendar proposed by the Malta FA.