Portugal’s Primeira Liga set to return on June 4

Rodrigo Battaglia of Sporting CP in action during the Liga NOS match between Sporting CP and CD Aves (Photo by Paulo Nascimento/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The organising body of Portugal’s Primeira Liga has announced that the top-tier football competition is set to resume its 2019-20 season behind closed doors on June 4.

The Portuguese government had originally given the green light for the league to resume on May 30, but the June 4 date has been selected to ensure that stadia can be inspected properly and players can be tested for Covid-19.

It is hoped that the return of the Primeira Liga can serve as a model for the resumption of other “economic activities” in Portugal.

The Primeira Liga and second-tier Liga Pro were suspended with 24 of 34 match weeks having been completed. Portugal’s lockdown measures were gradually lifted on May 3.

The Primeira Liga becomes the latest European league to outline plans to return to action. Germany’s Bundesliga is set to resume behind closed doors this weekend, with leagues in the Czech Republic and Denmark planning on returning later in the month and Austria’s Bundesliga targeting a June restart.

Last month, telecoms operator Altice warned that it was suspending its rights fee payments to clubs from the top two divisions due to the ongoing postponement of football in Portugal. Fonseca said that the payments would resume as soon as the content is made available to its clients, adding that payments for March were settled.

In 2015, Altice battled with rival telecoms operators for rights to Portuguese football. Its 10-year €457.5m ($496m) deal with Porto was the most high profile of its individual deals. That agreement granted it media rights to Porto home matches (from 2018-19 to 2027-28) plus shirt sponsorship and in-stadium sponsorship rights and the distribution of the Porto club channel.

However, there was contraction in the Portuguese market in July 2016 when Altice and fellow telco Vodafone each acquired 25-per-cent stakes in pay-television broadcaster Sport TV from Nos and Global Media Group – both owned by Portuguese businessman Joaquim Oliveira.

Sport TV responded to the nation’s coronavirus precautions by announcing that it would broadcast matchdays 25 and 26 on its free-to-air Sport TV+ channel as matches were played behind closed doors. The matches were to be available to all subscribers with a basic-tier package on Portuguese operators such as MEO, NOS and Vodafone. Sport TV+ is available in over 92 per cent of Portuguese homes.