A big kick for Kirch

Soccer legend: Help mogul with new deal

BERLIN — Franz Beckenbauer, German soccer legend and VP of the German Football Assn. (DFB), has come out in support of teetering Teutonic TV titan Leo Kirch, saying the org should give the cash-strapped mogul a break and renegotiate its deal.

Georg Kofler, head of Kirch’s money-losing Premiere pay-TV unit, has said the group would seek to amend the 1.5 billion euro ($1.3 billion) contract for the rights to Bundesliga soccer until 2004. Premiere would seek to reduce the fee it pays for Hollywood film and sports rights, Kofler said, adding that soccer remained an important part of the web’s programming.

“The Bundesliga is a pillar of Premiere’s attraction,” he said. “We will always make an effort for it.”

Beckenbauer, who is also president of the Bayern Munich soccer club and enjoys enormous popularity with the German public, said soccer teams should be prepared to cut a new deal with Kirch.

“When one has a good partner, one must sit at a table and seek a compromise, and that means one must also be ready for cuts,” he said.

Soccer toppers say no

Soccer officials initially rejected the possibility of revamping the agreement. German Football League chairman Werner Hackmann said he expected Kirch to honor its contract for TV broadcast rights until 2004 and not try to renegotiate lower fees.

“Our partner has always complied with his obligations. We assume that this will also apply for the term of the full contract up until 2004.

“We are convinced that our product is worth the price,” Hackmann said, but he also admitted the league is looking at alternatives.

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