Taxpayers pay for matches until FAM decides on rights holder

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PETALING JAYA: The delay in naming a broadcast rights sponsor for the M-League football tournament means taxpayers will have to absorb the cost of broadcasting these matches.

While the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and its new “global advisor” MP & Silva decide whom to give the rights to, the league is already underway with both national broadcaster Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) and private free-to-air station TV3 under Media Prima airing the matches.

Last week’s Charity Shield (Piala Sumbangsih) between Johor DT and Pahang was the first of the M-League matches.

There are five matches this weekend, including fan favourites Terengganu vs Selangor and Armed Forces vs Kelantan. Both these matches are expected to be telecast live by RTM and TV3.

While no broadcast fee is charged to these stations, they have to absorb the production costs which amount to between RM100,000 to RM150,000 per match.

With FAM nowhere close to deciding whom to give the rights to, this means RTM will be spending RM100,000 to RM150,000 a week to air the matches live.

While the station may decide to air just a few matches, it is understood that RTM has been asked to air all matches as part of its responsibility as the national broadcaster to millions of football fans.

A source close to the football fraternity said RTM had set aside RM6 million to broadcast selected M-League matches. But this has instead caused RTM to throw its hat into the ring of bidders for the broadcast rights.

The logic is that if RTM is going to be forced to spend money on airing the M-League, it might as well do so as a rights holder.

“RTM has joined the conglomerate of broadcasters to bid for broadcasting rights,” said a source.

Meanwhile, there is no word yet on who among the original bidders for broadcast rights — Astro, Media Prima and Telekom Malaysia Bhd — will win the bid or if the rights will be awarded to a proposed conglomerate of all three bidders.

The conglomerate has put in a proposal of RM60 million for six years to FAM but the national body has declined that offer, insisting on a three-year deal.

Whatever the case, the decision to award the rights should have been made by Dec 31 last year when Astro’s five-year contract ended.

However instead of renewing that deal or announcing a new one with new partners, FAM brought in MP & Silva in a 15-year RM1.26 billion deal as its rights manager and global advisor, which means it is back to the drawing board for all bidders.

FAM and MP & Silva have set up a limited liability partnership, Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) to manage the M-League.

But this deal only takes effect in 2016 which is why the M-League broadcast issue is still in limbo this season. However MP & Silva managing director (Asia Pacific) Beatrice Lee told The Edge weekly last week that if there was a need to, it would start getting involved earlier.

“This is to ensure a smooth transition when we come in next year,” she said.

Zenith-IMG, one of the original bidders, has opted out of the race. It is the only bidder without a broadcast platform.

FAM president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has reassured fans that everything for this season is “under control”.

Minister of Communication and Multimedia Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek declined to comment, merely saying: “You better check with RTM”.

RTM director-general Datuk Abu Bakar Ab Rahim had yet to respond to queries at press time.

 

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 6, 2015.