Al-Ahram Weekly Online   14 - 20 August 2008
Issue No. 910
Sports
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

About going live

As the national league competition went into its second week, Ahli remained stubbornly opposed to broadcasting its matches live on satellite channels, Inas Mazhar reports

Click to view caption
Egyptian fans missed watching Ahli on TV as they scored their first victory of the seaso

For the second week running, Ahli remained opposed to broadcasting its matches live on satellite channels. Meanwhile it has also decided not only to boycott three satellite TV channels but to take them to court as well for broadcasting parts of its opening match in the national league competition against Olympi of Alexandria. Ahli had won that game 3-0. Ahli will also sue these channels for offending the club and a board member.

Two days before the national league competition kicked off last Friday, Ahli launched its new TV station, on Wednesday 6 August. To celebrate the occasion Ahli invited Italy's FA Cup champions AS Roma to play a friendly at the Cairo Stadium. The match was broadcast exclusively on the new Ahli channel. On that day and after losing 3-0 to the Italian team, Ahli announced that it would not allow the broadcast of its matches live on any satellite channels except on state television, as the host broadcaster who gives the transmission signal.

The decision meant that Ahli was breaking its contract with the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), the only body responsible for dealing with the advertising, marketing and TV rights of the national league competition. The EFA has sold the TV rights to five different TV stations: Al-Hayat, Modern Sport, Dream Sport, ART and Nile Sport. None of these channels were able to broadcast live Ahli's first match in the national competition against Olympi on Saturday. Ahli has forbidden the entry of any TV cameras to the Cairo Stadium and the crews were sent away. Journalists and reporters in the media tribune weren't allowed to speak on their mobile phones so as not to send voice reports to their channels. A female radio presenter from the Egyptian radio was spotted and a fight blew on air between herself and the Ahli Club General Director to prevent her from reporting. She was escorted by the club's security out of the Stadium, and when she tried to re-enter her mobile phone was taken from here.

Indeed on the day there was no broadcasting of the match: just the presenters and their guest analysis in the studio discussing the issue. Most of them were against the club's decision and harshly criticised the club's management. However, the channels did their best to provide viewers with the latest results and incidents taking place at the stadium. However, Ahli officials were so alert, spreading their security guards all over in the stadium. They caught some reporters delivering voice pieces to their networks and sent them out. Interestingly, two security guards were standing in the main tribune, using telescope cameras to spot any TV cameras on the stands. Almost 3,000 spectators attended the match in the stadium.

But despite all that, one of the TV stations managed to sneak in with a camera and hide among the spectators and film the game and broadcast it 20 minutes before the Ahli channel did. According to the regulations in Europe, clubs who own TV stations are allowed to record their games and broadcast it 24 hours after the game is played and after it is televised by the right holders. Ahli channel had planned to broadcast the game half an hour after the final whistle. But that TV channel ruined it for the Red Knights.

The TV stations, who have paid millions of pounds in return for the broadcasting rights of the national league competition, complained and a long meeting was held at the EFA headquarters which involved the 16 member clubs and the five TV stations. According to the contract between the clubs, EFA and the TV stations, Article 8 stipulates that any club that launches a TV station has the right to withdraw anytime and broadcast its games exclusively. And while everyone was aware of that clause, no one believed it would be enforced by anyone -- let alone Ahli. During the five-hour meeting, Ahli Club Chairman Hassan Hamdi was furious and demanded his rights be respected.

Though the meeting concluded with an agreement among the three parties -- the EFA, clubs and TV stations -- that the contract should stay valid this year in order not to cause upsets and losses to all parties, Ahli had something different to say. The club still clings to its right.

EFA president Samir Zaher is trying hard to reach a compromise that will avoid any more losses to all parties involved. "I'm in charge of Egyptian football in my capacity as the president of the EFA, the godfather to all clubs. Therefore, it's my duty to protect everyone's rights. I'm not denying Ahli's rights, but they have to work together with us for the group's sake, at least until the end of this season. I know Ahli is trying to defend its rights and I'm here also to defend the rights of all the others, clubs and the TV stations. We don't want to harm anyone." Zaher said.

Walid Debes, head of Modern Sport TV said that all TV stations involved are all representatives of the Egyptian media. "We have bought the rights from the legal channels and have commitments with advertising agencies for broadcasting all the national league matches including Ahli's matches. They can't just quit like that." Debes said.

Sayed Metwalli, chairman of the Masri club had his say after the meeting, "The contract should be respected. We are aware of Article 8, which gives Ahli the right to withdraw and launch his TV channel, but with the approval of all other clubs involved and the EFA itself. And according to the international regulations, Ahli can't broadcast live, so why prevent the others from that if they had paid the EFA and the clubs for the rights?" Metwalli wondered.

Ibrahim El-Meneissi, editor-in-chief of the Ahli club magazine was surprised by the attack on the club. "It's no surprise to anyone that Ahli is launching a channel. It's has been well known for a year now. Everyone was prepared," he said.

Ahli is still committed to its decision and might think of even buying the rights from the EFA for LE 3.6 million. The club board was set to meet Tuesday to discuss the decisions and statements of the EFA.

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