TVB may come to rescue for armchair soccer supporters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 2000, 12:00am

Soccer fans may yet have the chance to watch the climax of the European Champions' League next month.

Hong Kong looked set to miss out after talks broke down between Cable TV and ESPN Star Sports two weeks ago on a contract which expires at the end of this month.

But TVB said yesterday it was interested in bidding for the rights for the semi-finals and final in May.

As a territorial broadcaster, it could directly negotiate with UEFA.

ESPN only holds the cable-broadcasting rights.

'We don't have a final deal but we are interested,' a TVB spokeswoman said.

'It's an important sports and social event in Hong Kong and there would be many disappointed fans if the current situation continues.' She declined to disclose whether formal negotiations had started.

The development came as Cable TV hinted it would renew talks with ESPN to try to cover not only the remainder of the Champions' League matches but other international sports events.

And ESPN said its door was still open for negotiation.

'If they want to talk, we are willing to talk,' an ESPN spokeswoman said. 'But time is running out and May is very close.' A Cable TV spokeswoman said: 'We can't comment too much on commercial negotiations, but let's just say soccer is one of our most important attractions and we take the UEFA matches very seriously.' If no new deal is brokered by either Cable TV or TVB, quarter-final matches due to be transmitted on April 19 and 20 would be the last of the league matches on ESPN.

The international sports channel would be replaced by Cable's Sports 2, which would be extended into a 24-hour channel.

Cable TV has exclusive rights to the English Premier League, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, the English FA Cup and Italian Serie A soccer and these will continue to be broadcast.