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Red card for ‘EPL on RTM’ pledge — Haresh Deol

JANUARY 8 — This is in reference to a pledge made by the youth wing of a political pact, claiming it will broadcast all international sport matches including the English Premier League and La Liga on state-owned Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) should it win the upcoming general elections.

The pledge, made by Pakatan Harapan’s youth wing during its inaugural convention at Empire Hotel, Subang on Jan 6, was among the 10 proposals dubbed the “PH Youth Offer.”

A representative of the youth wing said this would abolish monopoly by pay television companies and prompt families to foster better bond by spending time together.

Minutes after the article was published online, I responded through a series of tweets:

i. Jan 6, 11.39pm: Some people claim they will broadcast EPL, La Liga on RTM if they win GE14. Do these people know how much of money (ie millions) is involved in securing broadcasting rights? Why should tax payers RM (money) be used to show EPL?

ii. Jan 6, 11.42pm: Before promising, try doing some homework. My article in 2015 regarding broadcasting rights

iii. Jan 6, 11.43pm: Also, wouldn’t the same money be better spent on health care, education of building more recreational facilities/public parks instead of airing EPL/La Liga on RTM?

My tweets are self-explanatory.

For the uninitiated (and those who clearly failed to do their homework before making the pledge), I wrote about pricey broadcasting rights in my column in Malay Mail in 2015 (Haresh Says: Who should Serie A, La Liga fans blame?).

It was the same year Telefonica bought the La Liga rights for the 2015-2016 season for €600 million (then RM2.9 billion) and in 2014, Italy’s football league awarded international television rights for Serie A games for €557 million (then RM2.7 billion) for the next three seasons, almost 60 per cent more than the previous auction.

Those who made the pledge should bear in mind:

i. Sky could fork out an extra £600m (RM3.25 billion) annually to retain the lion’s share of Premier League matches when the next rights auction launches this year, with Amazon setting its sights on the biggest prize in UK sport broadcasting. Google, Apple, Facebook and Netflix have shown interest for Britain’s most valuable sports rights, which are split between Sky and BT under the current three-year deal.

The prospect of a heated auction has led analysts to estimate Sky might have to pay a premium of up to 45 per cent on the near £4.2 billion it paid last time. That means a further £1.8 billion, or £600 million annually, to keep the tech firms at bay, reported UK’s The Guardian.

ii. Even if the political pact has got billions (or trillions) of ringgit to splurge, Astro holds the broadcasting rights in Malaysia from the 2016/17 to 2018/19 seasons.

iii. PAS had prior GE13 promised to build a new stadium in Kelantan if they won the state. On March 30, 2013, Datuk Nik Abd Aziz Nik Mat, who was then Kelantan Mentri Besar, performed the ground breaking ceremony at Bukit Rembau in Pasir Puteh. No stadium has been built since. The state government, had in April last year, claimed “an investor had shown interest to construct the RM3 billion project,” as reported by Harakah Daily.

Sports fans responded to my original article “Here's why tax payers money should not be used for EPL..” on my blog Foul! (hareshdeol.blogspot.my) and the series of tweets. They rubbished the pledge. In short, the youth wing had scored an own goal.

There were of course Pakatan Harapan sympathisers who defended the pledge while others took random pot shots at their political foes.

If Barisan Nasional (BN) had come up with a similar pledge, they too would have been badly tackled and be showered with boos.

This, however, is not the first time politicians have used and abused sports to gain political mileage.

In 2007, national shuttlers Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong were paraded by BN members in Ijok after winning the All England men’s doubles event days before the by-election there. Sports fans knew it was a political gimmick.

Selangor Sports Council, had in 2015, used #KitaLawan! (Let’s Fight) as its 2016 Malaysia Games (Sukma) battle cry. The political hashtag emerged after PKR’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to five years’ jail for sodomy on Feb 10, 2015.

The motto was eventually dropped.

Pakatan Harapan’s youth wing should have pledged that they will air the M-League and promote local sporting events instead.

We should be celebrating local sports and our athletes, not EPL or the La Liga.

Sports are a nation builder and unifying factor. Sports should not be tainted with politically motivated agendas.

To politicians of both divides, don't use sports as a gimmick to win votes.

* Haresh Deol is a two-time Sportswriters Association of Malaysia Journalist of the Year (2011, 2015).

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.