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Premier League ordered to show some games free-to-air when season restarts


May 15, 2020

The Premier League has been told by the British government it must show some matches on free-to-air TV and put more money into the Football League and grassroots game as a condition for restarting this season.

The demands were made by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, at a meeting on Thursday at which he gave the go-ahead for matches to resume provided it is safe to do so.

“The government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June,” Dowden said. “This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.”

“It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans, and there is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole. The government and our medical experts will continue to offer guidance and support to the game ahead of any final decision which would put these plans into action.”

The Premier League is in negotiations with its broadcast partners Sky and BT over finding a way of showing some matches free-to-air if and when the season resumes. The government’s preferred solution is that the remaining 45 matches not already covered under the terms of existing TV deals are shown either on freely accessible TV channels or via a streaming platform such as YouTube.

The government has also instructed the league to factor ‘solidarity payments’ into any final reckoning should the season be completed. Broadcasters have demanded a rebate from the Premier League even if they are able to screen their full complement of matches, because of subscribers lost owing to the current postponement of the season and because the league has not been able to deliver the product as promised. The department of digital, culture, media and sport has asked, however, that a tranche of any remaining TV money received should in part be shared with the rest of the football pyramid.

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