Football: Singtel to screen Sept 19 Champions League games involving Spurs, Liverpool, Barcelona, Monaco and Dortmund

Paris Saint-Germain players attend a team walkabout at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium on Sept 17, 2018, on the eve of the two teams' Champions League Group C clash. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - There was good news and bad news for football fans in Singapore on Tuesday (Sept 18) night.

At 9.18pm - barely three and a half hours before the first round of Champions League matches kicked off at 12.55am, Singtel announced on its Facebook page that it would broadcast five games that had been scheduled for the wee hours of Wednesday (Sept 19) morning.

The matches are:
- Inter Milan v Tottenham (mio Sports Ch111, 12.55am)
- Barcelona v PSV Eindhoven (Ch112, 12.55am)
- Liverpool v PSG (Ch111, 3am)
- Monaco v Atletico Madrid (Ch112, 3am)
- Club Brugge v Borussia Dortmund (Ch113, 3am).

However, it remains to be seen whether Champions League and Europa League action will continue to be broadcast live on television here as a deal between rights owners DAZN and local telcos has not been forthcoming.

Following its announcement on Tuesday night about the selected telecasts, a fan, Tan Chee Siong, queried Singtel on its Facebook page about Manchester United's match against Swiss team Young Boys, which is scheduled for 3am on Thursday morning Singapore time, but the telco would only tell him that he "may wish to look out for our updates tomorrow for subsequent games".

This move - to telecast selected matches in Singapore when a firm deal to broadcast the entire season has yet to be struck - is believed to be unprecedented.

Singtel did not reply to queries from The Straits Times on Tuesday night.

StarHub told ST that it is still in discussions regarding the rights.

The uncertainty has frustrated local football fans.

Liverpool fan Amin Razak, a 42-year-old driver, said: "While I am relieved that I can watch the group-stage opener against PSG, I am anxious about whether I can watch the rest of our group games."

The situation is mirrored across the Causeway as DAZN, a video-streaming service owned by UK-based sports media company Perform Group, also holds the rights there.

Malaysian fans have taken to Astro's Facebook page to express their frustrations, with the broadcaster's social media team telling them: "The price of UCL TV rights has increased. A lot (just look up Champions League TV rights 2019 in Google).

"If we bought it, the price of the sports package will have to reflect that. But we already hv (have) customers complaining that the price is too high. In this economic climate, it wouldn't make sense to charge our customers more, right? So we're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

"If we don't show the competition, we get blasted. If we increase the package price again, we also get blasted."

On Monday, Singtel, which had broadcast previous seasons on its channels, had told ST that it "remains in discussion with Uefa Champions League and Europa League licensee to secure broadcast rights".

It also explained to its Facebook followers that the ownership of the Champions League and Europa League broadcast rights had switched from Eurosport to DAZN, which now holds them for the upcoming three seasons.

It added that "while Singtel TV has entered discussions with DAZN to bring both Uefa football competitions to our customers, these discussions have been inconclusive, as DAZN has yet to confirm its broadcast plans".

Attempts by ST to reach Perform's Singapore office for comments have been unsuccessful.

This is not the first time that negotiations have dragged on between rights owners of major sporting events and local broadcasters.

In 2016, Mediacorp struck a deal with broadcast rights holder Dentsu for the Olympic Games only a day before the opening ceremony.

Similarly, Eleven Sports reached an 11th-hour deal with Dentsu to telecast February's Winter Olympics a day before it began.

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