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Thai football league season in doubt amid broadcast spat

Football Association of Thailand president, Police General (Rtd.) Somyot Poonpanmoung at the workshop in Bangkok on October 8, 2019. (Football Association of Thailand)

The Football Association of Thailand has written to the country’s clubs to ask whether they want to play the remaining games of the 2020 season, and warned that they face a drop in funding due to sponsorship deals affected by the Covid-19 downturn.

The Bangkok Post reported that FAT president Somyot Poompunmuang said matches would have to be played under measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He added: “An economic downturn…has forced sponsors to change their policy and reduce their sponsorship fees.

“This has affected the income of the Football Association of Thailand and clubs to the extent that some clubs face difficulties to continue their teams.”

Only four rounds of matches were completed in the 2020 Thai League 1 season before it was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The clubs must respond to the FAT letter by July 20.

The FAT wants to resume its the Thai League 1 season on September 12 and run it until May 15, 2021. In May, FAT president Somyot said that the league was considering permanently switching to a schedule that straddled two years, mirroring football seasons in Europe.

However, domestic league media rights partner TrueVisions, the pay-television broadcaster, wants the top-tier Thai League 1 to restart sooner. Last week, the FAT rejected a demand from TrueVisions to finish the league by October 25 this year, as originally scheduled.

TrueVisions’ media rights agreement ends this season, and it has lost the rights to other parties from next season onwards. The FAT has awarded the rights for the 2021 to 2028 period to new partners following a tender process run last year, although it has not yet identified the winners.

TrueVisions is threatening legal action over the changes to this season’s schedule, and has also demanded a reduction in its rights fees due to a lower number of matches being delivered than stipulated in its original contract. Thai League 1 was reduced from 18 to 16 teams this season. TrueVisions has, however, indicated a willingness to negotiate for a new deal to broadcast games until the end of the year.