Premier League Must Show Free-to-Air Games as Restart Condition

The Premier League has been told that it must show games on free-to-air television as a condition of the competition restarting next month.

The English game’s top tier will also be expected to distribute some of its wealth amongst the Football League and grassroots football organisations too, the British government has insisted.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden reportedly made the demands at a meeting on Thursday May 14.

He also gave games the go-ahead to resume, as long as adequate safety conditions are maintained.

“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.”

Dowden also confirmed that the government would continue to offer guidance and support ahead of any final decisions being made about the eventual conditions for a resumption of action.

Broadcast negotiations ongoing

Negotiations are reportedly ongoing between the Premier League and its broadcast partners, Sky Sports and BT Sport, about how games can be broadcast once the competition gets underway once again.

The government has also instructed the Premier League that ‘solidarity payments’ must be factored into their calculations for how the season will be completed.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has requested that part of any remaining TV money should be shared with the wider football pyramid.

Broadcasters have demanded rebates from the Premier League even if the full complement of matches is screened.

This is because subscriptions have been lost due to the postponement of the current season, and also because the league has not delivered the product that was promised.

There are 45 matches left to be played, and the government’s preferred solution is that games not currently covered by TV deals are shown on free-to-air TV channels or streaming platforms like YouTube.

Finding a solution to the situation is not going to be easy, though. The EFL is reportedly expecting a one-off payment to cover, at least in part, the £200 million hole in its finances that the current health crisis has caused.

There are also issues with getting the players back into training. Protocols have been devised that allow players to train while still conforming to government health regulations.

Players and managers have concerns

Players are understood to be concerned about health and safety issues relating to coronavirus, while managers want more than three weeks of preparation time.

Protocols regarding physical contact in training are also yet to be finalised and need to be established before the league can resume.

“The overall approach with easing social distancing has been one that has been tentative, measured, slow and step-wise,” said Jonathan van Tam, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, speaking at the daily Coronavirus briefing earlier this week.

"That is exactly the plan that is under way for all of elite sport, not just football. The first of those is really to return to safe training still observing social distancing, and plans are taking place at quite some depth to be ready to do that."

There will be a vote on Monday among the 20 Premier League clubs to see if the proposals for resumption will be accepted.

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