Football: BBC to air live English Premier League matches for first time as season restarts
LONDON: The BBC will for the first time air free-of-charge Premier League football games live when the season restarts next month, the broadcaster said on Thursday (May 28).
"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 lift, this is very welcome news," Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said.
The Premier League, formed in 1992, will restart on Jun 17 provided all safety requirements have been put in place.
READ: English Premier League 'to restart on June 17'
The season will get back under way on that Wednesday with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal, which are both games in hand.
A full fixture list will then be played on the weekend of Jun 19-21. All games will be played without fans in attendance.
With the restrictions on the broadcasting of Saturday 3.00pm games lifted, the league said all 92 remaining matches will be broadcast live in the UK by its existing broadcast partners: Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime.
The BBC, normally limited to a highlights show, will broadcast Premier League matches live for the first time since the English top-flight broke away from the Football League in 1992. The licence-fee funded network will have four games.
Subscription-based Sky Sports will have 64 of the remaining games with 25 of those matches broadcast on free channels.
READ: The issues to resolve as Premier League returns
The Premier League was suspended on Mar 13 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic but teams returned to small group training last week and on Wednesday voted unanimously to return to contact training, including tackling.
“Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June. But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority," said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.
Failure to resume the season could cost the league around 750 million pounds (US$921.75 million) in lost revenue from broadcasters according to British media estimates.
"Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches," said Masters.
“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," he added.
Given the additional number of live games on television, the league said kick-offs would "differ from the traditional times."
Liverpool, bidding to lift their first league title in 30 years, lead the standings by 25 points.