The Slovak Football League recently joined the FBIN Football Network. In this interview, Michal Mertinyak, Executive Director of the League talks about recent developments, future goals and how they want to use the membership in the FBIN Network to support the development of the clubs.
The new season is about to start, how are the preparations going?
The preparations for the new season are at a very advanced stage. We had an interesting summer with finalizing the cooperation renewal with our TV rights holder, which was successful at the end, and we have announced the partnership until end of the season 2026/2027.
Is there anything new within the league?
We are still working on developments on our side. Thanks to our partners from European Leagues, we are very active in international environment as well. Before the start of the new season, we plan to launch the new mobile app, together with our technological partner Orange. By the end of the transfer window, we will launch the new Fantasy League as well and we are in advanced discussions about an NFT partner.
You offer some great services for fans – a fantasy game, a mobile app. How are they received by the fans, how many people do you reach, how satisfied are you with them?
Our main task, after a long and frustrating Covid period, is the return of fans to the stadia. App, Fantasy League and all activation are important not only from brand reasons, but even because we want to give the fans what they want. They want to have gamification and want to be part of the league, and these are the tools to give them this opportunity.
Beside that you are now a member of the FBIN Football Network now. What are you plans for the membership?
We would like to be a very active member. Our aim is to educate and develop people from the league and from the clubs, so that we can solve problems on our side more efficiently and quickly. The ideal way is to learn from the others and with FBIN we hope to have the chance to learn from best practices in comparable conditions as we have in our league.
What are the most important topics you want to focus on together with FBIN?
Definitely the return of fans, matchday experience and digital identity of fans.
You are part of the group of leagues that collectively sold their media rights together with European Leagues to Eleven and Onefootball. That started in autumn 2021 – what is your conclusion after a half season in that constellation?
This project is ground-breaking, we really feel there is a great potential in such collective deals. European Leagues are growing year by year and we are a proud ordinary member. I personally feel that cooperation with Onefootball and Eleven is a perfect test for the future to come. We all see the developments on the international media and OTT landscape and such a deal can help to be present in any other deal with big players on the market in the years to come.
What are the current developments in terms of media rights for the Slovak Football League?
As described in my first answer, we do have an excellent TV rights holder in Markíza-Slovakia group. The main platform is the SVOD platform VOYO, the home of the best Slovak football. On this platform you can watch all the games live.
I must admit that the rise of the value in last 3-years cycles is very good. With this new deal with Markíza-Slovakia we are one more time the best collective sport in Slovakia, if we discuss the value of rights. A very important part of our deal is the centralized production of the games, that is controlled by the league and the quality is increasing year by year.
In what other areas are you looking to improve or evolve?
We need to work on our people, in the league, in the clubs, everywhere. If we want to grow, we need to learn from best practices in our environment.
Some Scandinavian leagues are providing their clubs with software tools and other centralised offers. Is that something you do as well or want to do in the future?
This is something, that we have started as well. Our first centralized deal was with Instat and we are still moving forward. In the meantime, the league is providing our own videoanalytical system, we do have an exclusive data partner and working on one cloud scenario in the coming seasons.
Let’s talk about some figures – how many people are working for the league and what are the biggest clubs in Slovakia in terms of staff and revenue?
The league itself consists of four people, but we are having a lot of outsourced services, like the TV production.
The clubs in Slovakia are very different. The biggest clubs in Slovakia are the ones with the biggest history like ŠK Slovan Bratislava and FC Spartak Trnava. ŠK Slovan Bratislava has revenues close to 15 million Euro. They have more employees than the league in the meantime.
How do you see the recent development of the European competitions?
The answer to this question is not easy. Recent developments are a bit unpleasant, because they increase the difference between the rich clubs and smaller clubs. We are constantly discussing on European Leagues level all important developments and I’m happy to say, that we were able to change some decisions on UEFA level thanks to our cooperation. The new club advisory platform is a good place to address all changes in the coming years not only from an economical view, but at the same time from the sports view and regarding political developments as well.