Vietnam football hit by row over TV rights

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Controversy has broken out regarding television broadcast rights for the Super League (formerly V-League) matches, the country's top-tier football tournament, with the newly established Vietnam Professional Football (VPF) JSC at loggerheads with the company that has bought the telecast rights.

Vietnamese football had undergone a major change early this month with the task of organizing national football competitions passed on from the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) to the VFP, which has on its board officials of the federation as well as owners of the nation's football clubs.

Before the mantle passed on to the new company, the VFF had early this year sold television rights to Super League matches to the Audio Visual Global (AVG) JSC. The two sides signed a 20-year agreement for VND6 billion (US$286,000) per year.

Officers of the VPF, which was established early December, found the agreement unreasonable. They wanted to shorten the time and raise the agreement's value to VND20 billion a year.

AVG has contended that although VPF has the right to organize national football competitions, it cannot unilaterally terminate the agreement or force it to raise the value from VND6 billion to VND20 billion a year.

AVG president Pham Nhat Vu refused to change the terms and conditions in the agreement during a talk with VFF vice chairman Pham Ngoc Vien and general secretary Tran Quoc Tuan (Tuan has since resigned and will leave office on January 1, 2012) on Wednesday, December 28.

Vu said the agreement AVG signed with VFF was guaranteed by officials of the sports department and authorized agencies, so it must remain unchanged for the term agreed to at the beginning.

He said AVG would not agree to the VND20 billion per year that VPF has informed the press it is demanding.

According to Vien, AVG has all rights to air the matches on television as mentioned in the agreement, so VFF can do nothing about it. However, he said, VPF and AVG should discuss the issue and come to an agreement that is beneficial to both parties.

VPF board members are also unhappy that the AVG plans to choose the matches that will be aired live, instead of airing all of them.

Nhat Vu said 40 local television stations have asked for the right to rebroadcast live the football matches that AVG owns the copyrights to, but the company requires that they also show AVG's logo and advertisements.

Meanwhile, the major television stations in the country, VTV, VTC (Vietnam Cable TV) and Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) have not reached agreement with AVG because they are not pleased with the company's choice of matches to be aired live.

They say this would not only narrow down the areas to be televised but also badly affect the interests of the Super League sponsor, Eximbank. The bank, which invests VND30 billion in the tournament, is entitled to ask that the league matches be broadcast on as many television stations as possible to promote its image.

A source said Wednesday that the VPF Board of Directors still planned to negotiate with broadcasting television stations like VTV, VTC and HTV the possibility of showing matches and images of the Super League as much as possible on their sports channels. The VPF has said it would not accept any company holding exclusive television telecast rights, and would sell them to different TV stations.

According to a member of the VPF's Board of Directors, if VTV pays for the right to televise live four or five matches of the Super League a week to broadcast on its different channels including VCTV channels and satellite channel K+, VPF can earn up to VND12-15 billion.

The VPF has also said it would support VTV in exploring income earning options through advertising. It would also offer similar deals to VTC and HTV.

It is not clear however, how the VPF can circumvent the VFF-AVG agreement and negotiate these deals.

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