ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Israel to broadcast soccer games to settlements as European body gives up demand

After broadcaster was set to forego World Cup screening rights, Israeli federation brokers deal, ending year-long impasse

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Albania's Taulant Xhaka,, left, fights for the ball with Israel's Munas Dabbur during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Albania and Israel at Elbasan Arena, in Elbasan, southern Albania, Sept. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
Albania's Taulant Xhaka,, left, fights for the ball with Israel's Munas Dabbur during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Albania and Israel at Elbasan Arena, in Elbasan, southern Albania, Sept. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Israel’s national broadcaster will not lose the rights to broadcast Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup qualifier soccer games after the European soccer body withdrew an earlier demand that games not be broadcast in West Bank settlements, according to a Tuesday report.

The national broadcaster Kan bid €5 million ($5.8 million) for the rights to show Israel’s games in the early round of the two international soccer competitions, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported earlier this month. The bidding was conducted by a US company, CAA11.

The contract with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), however, had stated that Kan may only broadcast the matches inside the so-called Green Line, and not in what UEFA defined as “the Palestinian territories.” That condition would mean that Israeli citizens living in settlements or in East Jerusalem would be unable to watch the matches — a condition unacceptable to Kan, which later informed UEFA it was giving up its bid.

But a solution has recently been achieved after senior officials in the Israel Football Association contacted UEFA over the issue, Yedioth reported Tuesday.

The European body then had informal talks with Kan officials, the report said, and on Monday sent a revised contract enabling the broadcaster to screen the matches in the West Bank on one condition — that it also broadcasts the games in Arabic, and that it uses the broadcast of a Qatari company that bought the rights to broadcast the matches in the Middle East and north Africa, which includes “the Palestinian territories.”

Ofer Eini, President of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) takes part in a press conference on June 6, 2018, in Ramat Gan. (AFP / JACK GUEZ)

Kan responded to the report by saying it strives to broadcast “to all Israeli citizens anywhere, regardless of where they live, and is happy to purchase the broadcasting rights… and bring open and free broadcasts to all Israeli citizens.”

The solution reportedly came after almost a year of negotiations between Kan and the European soccer association.

Kan, which had planned on showing the matches with Hebrew commentary on Channel 11 and with Arabic commentary on channel 33, had offered to only broadcast the matches using Israeli cable and satellite technology, and to ensure that they are not available to those who are not residents of Israel.

That was how Kan broadcast the last World Cup to all Israeli citizens and residents in both Hebrew and Arabic. However, the bidding then was conducted by a European company. CAA11 had refused to budge until the recent development.

The Israel Football Association said it had been in contact with UEFA “from the moment the difficulty was brought to our attention,” adding that it had reached an agreement with the European body that broadcasts should “continue being conducted, now and in the future, according to the rules that were in place thus far, and which ensure all Israeli citizens receive the broadcasts.

“We thank UEFA heads for their help in finding a solution which once again prevents any attempt to tie soccer with politics.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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