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Under-fire ATV holds on to Hong Kong Premier League rights

Free-to-air broadcaster ATV will retain its rights to the Hong Kong Premier League, the top division of football in the country, after the Hong Kong Football Association said it had guaranteed it would improve its service.

In September, ATV secured the rights to the inaugural Premier League under a one-year deal in which the HKFA is paying the broadcaster HK$2.5m (€284,000/$322,000) to cover the competition.

After complaints from clubs, ATV had been given until last week to improve services or face early termination of the contract. Other than covering a number of live and recorded matches, the South China Morning Post said ATV was also required to produce separate programming to promote the Premier League’s clubs and the sport in general.

However, the newspaper said the broadcaster has fulfilled only part of the agreement by covering live matches, while clubs have been disappointed by recorded games being scheduled late at night.

ATV is encountering financial difficulties and reports have stated that it may be forced to close due to its failure to pay staff their wages. However, the broadcaster is now said to have assured the HKFA of its long-term viability.

“(ATV) has agreed a number of improvements to the service it will provide in accordance with the requests of the clubs,” HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said. “We have informed ATV and the clubs that the current deal will remain in place until the end of the season.”

The Premier League replaced the old First Division for the 2014-15 season in a bid to revitalise club football in Hong Kong.