It’s all Kicking Off (Again): UK Government Outlines Conditions for the Premier League to Return

June 17, 2020

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

The UK Government has given the Premier League the green light to resume on 17 June after meeting conditions set out in May.

What does this mean?

Following a meeting on Thursday 14 May, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stated that the league would only be allowed to return if matches are shown on free-to-air television and payments are made to the English Football League and grassroots football. The league has met these demands and is set to resume behind closed doors. The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated that the move would “boost the spirits of the nation”.

The updated TV schedule will see four Premier League matches broadcast on the BBC, a first for terrestrial television. Sky Sports will also stream 25 matches for free, whilst Amazon will show their 4 matches without the need for a subscription.

What's the big picture effect?

The demands could potentially change the future of broadcasting football. If the BBC can draw in huge numbers, it may cause league officials to rethink who they sell the domestic TV rights to (which are worth a whopping £4.5bn). The BBC has previously brought in over 16m viewers for FA Cup Third Round games.

Making some matches free-to-air will also cause legal complications due to the TV deals companies such as Sky and BT have in place to exclusively show the league on their channels. Broadcasters have demanded “solidarity payments” of roughly £340m from the Premier League to cover subscribers lost during the break. The Premier League has, in principle, agreed to repay the sum in full over two years. It is hoped that some of this money can go to the English Football League and grassroots football.

It is also likely that lawyers will be needed to help resolve issues of breach and renegotiation of contracts caused by both the Government requirements for restarting the league and postponement of the season. Whilst this information is not public, it is likely that Sky will want reparations in return for showing 25 games for free.

Clearly legal and political issues are not the only potential delays to restarting the season; safety is the key concern for the league. Whilst full-contact training has resumed, clubs are keeping meticulous records of interactions to allow for future tracing of the virus. Wide scale testing has also been rolled out, with zero tests returning positive in the latest round.

The Premier League is set to return on 17 June 2020 at 6pm, as Aston Villa face Sheffield United.

Report written by Conor McDermott

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