BeIN Freezes Payments for Suspended Top Turkish Soccer Games

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(Bloomberg) -- BeIN Media Group told Turkish authorities it’s freezing payments for the country’s first division soccer games that have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The Qatari broadcaster sent a letter to Turkey’s Football Federation on Monday, saying it didn’t make approximately $30 million of payments that were due since the games were postponed last month, the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is confidential.

BeIN has already paid 75% of the $500 million it owes for the current season, but the balance will remain on hold until there is more clarity on when the Turkish Super Lig could start, said the person.

BeIN won’t be terminating its contract that’s been running for five years through the 2022-23 season of the Turkish Super Lig, the person said. BeIN’s Turkey unit, Digiturk, also has rights to live coverage of UEFA Champions League in Turkey.

Representatives for BeIN and Turkish soccer authorities declined to comment.

On Monday, the company said it will allow subscribers to defer payments for the next two months and get some other entertainment services for free.

Any disruption to cash flowing from the broadcaster to the federation is of great concern to Turkish clubs, which are already under close watch by UEFA for violating financial fairplay rules.

A currency shock in 2018 amplified Turkish companies’ liabilities, forcing massive debt restructurings. Turkey’s four listed soccer clubs -- Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Besiktas and Trabzonspor -- have either already restructured their debt with banks or are in talks to do so.

Fenerbahce fell as much as 4.6%, the most since April 2, and Besiktas as much as 2.5%. Galatasaray and Trabzonspor rose as much as 6% and 7.7% respectively.

Emerging Pattern

Turkey is hardly an epicenter for the pandemic with just over 30,000 patients. Yet, authorities have taken social distancing measures including the closing of schools and banning of spectators from professional games as soon as the country confirmed its first few cases during the second week of last month.

The soccer federation on March 19 postponed all leagues indefinitely and has since pledged to review its decision during the first week of May. Games may not restart before June, according to one of the options under consideration.

DAZN Group Ltd., the sports-streaming startup and backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik, France’s Canal+ and IMG Worldwide Inc. are among broadcasters that suspended payments to the leagues as the countries they are operating in have been struggling with the impact of the virus outbreak through lockdowns.

Comcast Corp.’s Sky, DAZN and other media companies collectively pay more than 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) a year to show Europe’s most prestigious football teams in action.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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