Tsunami-hit nations could lose World Cup TV

The head of sport at the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, John Barton, claims Sri Lanka and the Maldives could miss out on seeing all of next year’s FIFA World Cup because of the sums being demanded in broadcast rights fees. “If Euro 2004 is any guide the rights holder, ESPN/Star, will be asking hundreds of thousands of dollars for access to all matches,” he said.

“Both countries were hit by the tsunami and in particular Sri Lanka where ... thousands lost their lives, and many more their homes and livelihood. I am told that all available funds were used by broadcasters to maintain radio and television operations to support the victims and the homeless, and they continue to do so. They are in no position to be handing over what would amount to a ‘King’s ransom’ for the rights fees, when the prime responsibility of the Government is to re-build homes, hospitals, schools and other essential services, and neither should they,” Barton said, as quoted by Sports Business.

He urged soccer's world governing body, FIFA, to use its influence to help the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The domestic free-to-air broadcast rights for a large number of territories in Asia had been sold to ESPN/Star, which included the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

“It would be unconscionable for them to be exploited in such distressing circumstances. They are special cases which require some sensible and compassionate reasoning,” Barton added.

TV Maldives, the national free-to-air broadcaster, had been forced to pay more than 2,000 per cent more for Euro 2004 than they did two years earlier for the World Cup, and were now struggling to pay off the debt.

“By anyone’s calculation this is over the top. The idea that national broadcasters should go cap in hand to their governments to help top up the enormous sums being demanded by marketing agents is coming to an end. They would ultimately force a legislative response,” Barton said.

He added that he would be advising both countries on putting in place ‘Listed Events’ legislation to ensure the right of the ordinary citizen to see high demand sports.