Premier League to return with FTA games on Sky and BBC; Serie A back on 20 June
English soccer’s Premier League is set to return on 17 June, with all 92 remaining fixtures this season to receive live television coverage in the UK, including a significant proportion on a free-to-air basis.
The 2019-20 season has been suspended since mid-March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but, with the health situation in the UK improving, it was announced following an online meeting of the 20 clubs yesterday that the league will resume in just under three weeks’ time.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the country’s sports minister has approved the return of Serie A on 20 June.
Like Germany’s Bundesliga, which restarted earlier this month, and Spain’s LaLiga, which is poised to resume on 11 June, all matches in the English and Italian top flights will be played behind closed doors.
Subject to government approval, the Premier League will get back under way on Wednesday 17 June with the previously postponed fixtures between Manchester City and Arsenal and between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, and be followed by a full round of 10 matches over the weekend of 19 to 21 June.
Sky, the pay-television operator that is the main Premier League broadcaster in the UK, is to show 64 matches live, including 25 for free on its Pick channel, starting with the local derby between Everton and runaway leaders Liverpool on 20 June.
Other games will be shared between fellow rights-holders BT Sport, the subscription broadcaster, Amazon, the online retail giant, and the BBC, the public-service broadcaster.
The four live Premier League games on the BBC will be the first on one of the UK’s terrestrial television networks since the competition was launched in 1992 although the public broadcaster has held highlights rights for most of that time.
The decision to offer live all of the remaining games this season was influenced by the fact that spectators will not be able to attend, and weekend fixtures will be staggered to ensure the largest possible audiences.
The provisional kick-off times are: 8pm on Friday; 12.30pm, 3pm, 5.30pm and 8pm on Saturday; 12 noon, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7pm on Sunday; and 8pm on Monday.
Midweek fixtures, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, will start at 6pm or 8pm.
Matches can be televised on Saturday afternoons in the UK for the rest of the season as a result of the temporary lifting of the traditional blackout window of 2.45pm to 5.15pm.
Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive and executive vice-president, UK and Europe at Sky, said: “The return of live sport is a big moment for the country, and we want the nation to join us. Sky has partnered with the Premier League clubs for nearly 30 years, and the strength of our partnership has never been more important. Our commitment to showing 25 matches 'free to air' for the first time in the history of Sky Sports recognises the unique times we are in, and our desire to play our part.
"We have developed some terrific new innovations to give football fans the very best experience of watching live sport, when going to the match with family and friends isn't possible, and we look forward to sharing these with football fans shortly."
Barbara Slater, the director of BBC Sport, which is also planning to offer additional Match of the Day highlights programmes, said of its live games: “This opportunity creates an historic moment for the BBC and our audiences. At a time when sports fans across the country are in need of a lift, this is very welcome news.”
Outlining the domestic television plans for the rest of the season, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: "The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home. We will continue to work step-by-step and in consultation with all our stakeholders as we move towards resuming the 2019-20 season."Matches can be televised on Saturday afternoons in the UK for the rest of the season as a result of the temporary lifting of the traditional blackout window of 2.45pm to 5.15pm.
The league has been eager to complete the campaign, in large part to honour domestic and international media rights deals worth £9.2 billion ($11.3 billion) over three years.
It faced repayments of £762 million to its broadcasting partners if the campaign did not resume, and has told the clubs it is still liable for £330 million even if all the matches are played.
This is because of changes around scheduling and conditions, with games taking place on different days and at different times to originally planned, and behind closed doors instead of with full crowds in attendance, diminishing the value of the live product.
However, it has been reported that some clubs led by Liverpool are opposed to the proposed rebate, having argued that fans not being able to attend fixtures will increase the premium of live televised matches, and that UK broadcasters will be able to show more games than would otherwise have been possible.
At the time of the suspension, Liverpool were 25 points clear at the top of the table and on the verge of their first league title in 30 years.
It is thought that some of their remaining home games may have to be played at neutral venues to deter fans from turning up outside the Anfield stadium in contravention of continuing social distancing rules.
Italy Serie A and other Italian competitions have been suspended since early March but, following a conference call yesterday involving the league, the players’ association and the FIGC, the Italian football federation, top-flight matches are set to resume on 20 June, with the potential for Coppa Italia games to be held earlier.
The sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora said: “The meeting was very useful. Now Italy is starting again and it is right that soccer starts again too.”
There are still 12 rounds of matches to be played, plus four postponed games from the last round, and the FIGC has set a deadline of 20 August for the completion of the 2019-20 season.
Spadafora said: “The league will restart on 20 June. There’s then the possibility that the Coppa Italia semi-finals and final can be played on 13 and 17 June.”
He has already suggested that matches could be shown free-to-air given that fans will not be able to attend.
Serie A remains embroiled in a dispute with domestic media rights-holders over remaining payments for the current season, and indeed has commenced legal proceedings against Sky, the league’s dominant broadcaster.
Pay-TV operator Sky, OTT streaming platform DAZN and international agency IMG have been seeking deferrals or rights fee reductions, and the final instalment of around €220 million ($245 million) was due on 1 May.
Sky and DAZN hold Serie A rights in a three-year deal worth €973 million per season (€780 million from Sky and €193 million from DAZN), running to the end of the 2020-21 season, while IMG handles international media and other commercial rights to the league in a deal worth more than €360 million per season.