Under the war of words
By Son Nguyen in HCMC
The fight has been raging for weeks for the control of football television rights between the newly-established Vietnam Professional Football Corp. (VPF) and An Vien Group (AVG), the latter having clinched a contract with the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) for 20 years to air all football games organized under the VFF umbrella. Both sides have been trading barbs, with VPF rejecting the contract as null and void and AVG insisting on ‘the rule of law’ for any possible negotiations. In the midst of such a war of words, the winner is yet to emerge, but the country’s football and all its fans are the losers.
Days after it was established on December 14 last year as an organization affiliated to the football federation, VPF sent a document to AVG calling for a meeting to renegotiate the contract, a demand swiftly rejected by AVG. The ferocity of the fight was stoked up as VPF immediately allowed all television stations to broadcast football matches for free, disrespecting the contract as the company reasoned that it goes against the law since VFF with a five-year tenure should not have made a 20-year deal lasting until 2030. Furthermore, VPF also said that the contract value, at VND6 billion a year plus 10% after every year, is dirty cheap for three tournaments, namely the V-League, the First-Division and the National Cup.
Developments of the fight, as covered by local media, show that the football company has a good reason to do so, and the good intention, as revealed by vice chairman of VPF Nguyen Duc Kien and other VPF executives, has rallied strong support from the society.
Kien says the company wants renegotiations to raise the contract value and to cut the term of the contract to a few years, with an aim to benefit the country’s football.
“We, as real bosses of football clubs, have poured much investment into football for the development of the country’s sport, so we must be entitled to television rights,” Kien, who is also chairman of Hanoi Football Club, says in Nguoi Lao Dong.
A twist appears, however, when authorities under an instruction of the Prime Minister launched a probe into the legality of the contract. In a press meeting last week, inspectors clarified that the contract was “basically made in accordance with the law” in all respects, says Vnexpress.
“The contract term of 20 years could be controversial, but no provisions in the Civil Code or the Commercial Law restrict such a term, so it is not contradictory to the law,” according to inspectors.
VPF defies the conclusion. In a press meeting in the aftermath of the inspection results, Vice Chairman Kien revealed that the company has signed a memorandum with Vietnam Television for the football TV rights, according to Vietnamnet. This was confirmed by Doan Nguyen Duc, another board member of VPF, who said the rights are worth VND76 billion within three years.
The signing of such a memorandum, says Vietnamnet, has gone against the law, since no organization other than AVG has the TV rights to broadcast football games.
The public is becoming fed up with the tug-of-war between the two sides, says Sai Gon Tiep Thi. While appreciating efforts by VPF, the newspaper says the football company must respect laws and regulations.
“In principle, VPF still has to respect the contract signed between VFF and AVG, unless the deal is canceled or terminated before maturity, or declared null and void by court,” says Sai Gon Tiep Thi. Social stability can only be achieved owing to legal corridors being respected by all stakeholders, says the paper.
Vice chairman Kien of VPF even challenges the inspection results, and calls for an intervention by the Prime Minister, an action widely criticized by experts.
Despite all the disputes over the contract, both VPF and AVG agree that they will hold talks with each other so as to maximize benefits for the country’s football and all fans. However, the two sides are still on the direct course of collision, as “VPF will do its best to make changes to the contract for the sake of the country’s football” – as a VPF executive is quoted by Tuoi Tre – while AVG only agrees to hold talks as long as the contract stands.
“AVG appreciates suggestions from VPF regarding measures to increase revenue for football and widen TV coverage for the tournaments. (However) AVG is only ready to start negotiations if VPF respects the contract signed between AVG and the football federation,” AVG chairman Pham Nhat Vu is quoted by Tuoi Tre.
As the disputes go on, problems on the pitch remain unsolved. “Vietnamese football and all the fans over the recent past have been taken hostage in the war of words between the two sides,” says Sai Gon Tiep Thi. The public is still not seeing any improvements or reforms in the country’s football, so the war of words only makes people tired, says the paper.
As fans stand to suffer from the fight, an official of VFF says the situation will be remedied.
“We will take measures. The national championship tournament (V-League) must not be affected by those non-football frictions,” Le Hung Dung, vice chair of VFF, says in Phap Luat.
The Saigon Times Daily