LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (L) celebrates scoring the first goal with Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

UK government believe free-to-air Premier League will be “win-win situation”

Fans have been given encouragement that some Premier League matches will be televised free-to-air after “productive discussions” between the government and English football authorities.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, believes such a deal could be a “win-win situation” for supporters and football clubs.

Sky and BT Sport have exclusive rights to show live Premier League matches in the UK with the BBC holding a deal for highlights.

But with the planned resumption of top-flight football following the coronavirus suspension only possible behind closed doors, talks have been held over widening the television access.

Although stressing that the existing broadcast rights have to be respected, Dowden believes the absence of a Saturday afternoon blackout, which is enforced between 2.45 and 5.15 during the regular season, can provide some “flexibility.”

“I think that creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free to air,” Dowden added at the UK government’s daily coronavirus briefing.

“Those discussions are ongoing. I am having productive discussions—a couple of weeks ago and now the latest ones with Premier League, the EFL and the FA.

“I hope we can sort this out and also hope we can get more money going into the sport of football. I think we can find ourselves in a win-win situation.”

Premier League players returned to non-contact training from Tuesday and Dowden is hopeful that guidelines for the next phase can be approved this week with a view to matches returning in the middle of June.

“I hope, subject to the sign-off by Public Health England and others, we will then later this week, very shortly, get the guidance about how we can have training in a contact environment,” he said.

“This is for elite sports so that they can start to build up.

“The final stage would then be the guidelines as to whether they can resume behind closed doors.

“In doing that we have been guided by the health advice, and I can update you again today for the fourth time there were meetings between elite sports and Public Health England to find out how we can do it safely.

“If we can do it safely, I’d like us to be able to get it up and running towards mid-June if that’s possible.”