LONDON (AFP) – Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has pledged to resolve the competition’s Chinese television rights issue as soon as possible.
The Premier League terminated its contract with Chinese broadcaster PPTV earlier in September after a dispute over a missed payment.
PPTV agreed a reported US$700 million (S$950 million) deal for the right to broadcast all 380 Premier League matches per season from 2019 to 2022.
However, the first season of that deal was hit by the coronavirus pandemic with a three-month shutdown between March and June before the campaign was completed behind closed doors.
PPTV reportedly failed to make a £160 million (S$280 million) payment due in March for coverage of the 2019/20 season.
With the new Premier League campaign kicking off on Saturday, Masters is keen to get matches back on China’s televisions.
“We hope to resolve the issue as soon as we can. I want to make the best decision rather than the quickest decision,” Masters told the BBC on Wednesday.
“We know that there is a lot of demand to see Premier League matches out there, clubs have got millions of supporters who want to see their matches and so we hope to deliver something as soon as we can.
“There are all sorts of things to take into account, reach and value are two of them, but I think really it’s about choosing the right path forward in a very big market, a crucial market to the Premier League.”
Last season was marked by political tensions between Britain and China.
In December, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV pulled a game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its programme after Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil expressed support for mainly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Relations between the two countries have also soured as the British government has ordered the phased removal of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network.
But China had been the Premier League’s most lucrative overseas television rights territory when the three-season deal was originally agreed in 2019.
“It was a very difficult decision. PPTV have been a very good partner for us,” Masters said of pulling the plug on the deal.
“We had some contractual dispute with them that we couldn’t resolve so we took the very difficult decision, the commercial decision, to move on and to find a new way of doing things in China.”