TV soccer fans face FA Cup blackout

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 12:00am

Hong Kong football fans are facing an English FA Cup TV blackout for the first time in seven years, after Cable TV admitted yesterday it could not strike a deal with the company holding the rights to the competition.

The news came after weeks of haggling between Cable and UK-based broadcast rights holder Octagon CSI International failed to yield a result.

Cable TV external affairs director Garman Chan Ka-yiu said: 'I believe this year we won't have any FA Cup games. We can't reach an agreement. We have got enough football programmes anyway.'

The fifth round of the English FA Cup will kick off tonight. Matches include the all-Premiership clash between Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal versus Gillingham.

Premiership title-chasing Newcastle United take on Division One leaders Manchester City tomorrow.

It will be the first time in seven years that there has been no SAR broadcaster screening FA Cup matches. The competition has a huge following in the SAR.

Both TVB and ATV have said they have no plans to bid for the event.

Mr Chan said it was too early to say if Cable TV would bid for next season's FA Cup.

Broadcaster UBC Thailand said that it would show the weekend games. However, only a handful of local venues carry its satellite service, among them Delaney's and the Beer Castle in Wan Chai.

But a manager at Delaney's said yesterday the pub would be showing the Six Nations rugby games this weekend instead of the FA Cup.

Cable TV held the exclusive rights to broadcast the FA Cup until January last year, when sports channel ESPN won them.

However, the matches could not be seen in Hong Kong until April, when, after months of haggling, Cable TV concluded a deal with ESPN Asia to show the closing stages of the tournament.

A spokesman for ESPN said that because it no longer held the rights to the FA Cup, Cable TV had had to deal with CSI International directly.

Soccer fans said they felt let down by the news. Policeman Chick Kin-yeung, 24, said: 'I love the English FA Cup because there is plenty of excitement and passion in the games. It is a one-off tournament so it is full of surprises. Over the years it has produced many memorable matches.'

Fans willing to make a trip over the border to Shenzhen will still be able to watch the matches, however. TV stations in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong have secured the rights from CSI to show the competition, won last year by Liverpool.