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Belarus Premier League captures world’s attention with overseas TV deals

As the only European professional football league still playing, the Belarusian Premier League has now struck multiple overseas deals with broadcasters seeking live sports content during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the start of its new season earlier in March, the league has extended its reach into ten international territories, according to the Reuters news agency.

Among the broadcast deals reported, TV networks in neighbouring Russia and Ukraine, as well as countries further afield such as Israel and India, have snapped up rights to the league.

The Belarus Football Federation (ABFF) has refused to postpone play while the country is taking a more relaxed approach to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“What is clear is that this situation has never happened before in our country’s competition. [Previously] it was difficult for us to sell,” said ABFF spokesperson Alexander Aleinik on the national football body’s website.

With the Belarusian Premier League not signalling its intent to halt competition as this stage, it is sure to delight fans around the world who are craving something to watch, after having their local leagues suspended and postponed with no clear date of resumption.

“We didn’t expect them to have a decent league over there. We didn’t know this before because we didn’t show the matches,” said Viktor Samoilenko, the head of Poverkhnost Ukraine, which owns the country’s Sport-1 network.

The decision to continue playing comes with the Belarusian government deciding not to enforce the COVID-19 social distancing measures seen in other countries. Those regulations elsewhere have created a near-total shutdown of live sports events.

It means that as we’ve seen with some competitions previously, the league will look to continue operating as per normal until it is deemed too unsafe or recommended not to by their government.

It has definitely proved to be a unique approach by the people of Belarus and could serve as one of the few welcome distractions to what is happening around the world.

At the time of reporting, there have been 163 reported cases of coronavirus in Belarus, including 2 reported deaths and 53 patients who have made full recoveries. At the moment Belarus has one of the fewest number of cases in the world.

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Acun Medya Group secures Hull City takeover

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, headed by Acun Ilicali.

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, for a fee in the reported region of $37 million AUD.

Acun Ilicali, a 52-year-old businessman and owner of Acun Medya Group, was introduced to fans at the MKM Stadium prior to the club’s 2-0 win at home over Blackburn Rovers.

The takeover brings the controversial ownership of the Allam family to an end, much to the delight of fans after a roller coaster 11 years in charge.

Despite overseeing two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup Final and Hull’s first-ever foray into a European competition through the UEFA Europa League in 2014, the Allam family became increasingly unpopular with the fans.

The unpopularity of the Allam family is due to many different reasons, however it all started when the family proposed a name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ back in 2013. The move was ultimately blocked by authorities a year later, which frustrated the Allams and they then put the club up for sale, straining the relationship with fans and seeing a decline in attendances at home fixtures.

The new ownership will look to win back supporters and turn the negative tide.

Acun Medya Group Owner, Acun Ilicali:

“I am happy that I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We are starting a beautiful journey with Hull City. We have many big dreams and goals to achieve together with our fans,” he said.

Outgoing Vice-Chairman Ehab Allam:

“During our tenure, we have worked hard to create a sustainable model and successful academy set-up, giving the club the foundations it needs for the future,” he said.

“There have been lots of ups and downs over the last 11 years or so, but we will take some very fond memories with us… We have taken a very business-led approach to running the club and I truly hope Acun can rebuild the relationship with the fanbase and also bring back the success on the pitch that fans crave and deserve.”

Hertha Berlin pushing hard for stadium upgrade

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to the Olympiastadion.

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to its current home, the Olympiastadion, releasing fresh renderings of its vision for such a project.

The club has been attempting to progress plans to develop a new home for several years and in February 2020 stated that the OlympiaPark would be the preferred location.

In November 2018, Hertha confirmed it was targeting an opening date in July 2025 for a new-look Olympiastadion, with preference to be building a completely new stadium rather than renovating the current one.

The current Olympiastadion has been home to Hertha Berlin for almost 60 years, and has a capacity of around 74,000. However, the club is seeking a more intimate stadium for its fans, as well as the inclusion of an athletics track.

Hertha’s former stadium commissioner, Klaus Teichert, withdrew an application for a decision to be made on the location for a new stadium, with Brandenburg also put forward as a potential location.

Hertha Berlin Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schiller:

“We have entered into talks with the new government and are working hard to set the course for our new stadium in 2022,” he said.

“The stadium is the club’s most important project, especially in terms of the economic situation.”

There is a lot of political support necessary for the project to get approved, as the potential worksite currently includes residential apartments, a big reason for negotiations coming to a stall at times.

A resident spoke to local radio station rbb24:

“You talk about ir, but not with us. We are still not prepared to sell our apartments in Sportforumstraße or to negotiate about them,” they said.

“It is very unfortunate that our residents in Sportforumstraße are once again unsettled by this uncoordinated approach.”

Hertha Berlin and backers of the new stadium have been in negotiation with Berlin’s sports senator, Iris Spranger, with talks to continue over the next month.

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