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24 Aug, 2022 08:57

Russian TV boss discusses chances of World Cup blackout

Some countries have demanded a total broadcast ban for Russia
Russian TV boss discusses chances of World Cup blackout

There is no “alarm” at the prospect of Russian football fans being deprived of the chance to watch the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year, according to a senior figure at federal sports channel Match TV. Some Western countries and their allies have called for a blanket broadcast ban on global sport in Russia because of the conflict in Ukraine.   

“There are no alarms. The contract is concluded,” Match TV deputy general producer Vasily Konov told Vedomosti.

“We’ve begun the process of organizing groups that will work in Doha,” added Konov, discussing the FIFA showpiece which gets underway on November 20.

Back in July, the US State Department shared a statement – signed by 35 nations in total – which repeated calls for all Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from international competitions.

It added that “national and international sports organizations should consider suspending the broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus.”

That raised discussion as to whether Russian football fans could be stripped of the opportunity to watch the 2022 World Cup on TV, having hosted the last edition of the showpiece in 2018.  

Some organizations such as the English Premier League and Formula 1 have suspended previous broadcast agreements with Match TV.

But Konov said that in terms of top-level European football, his channel would continue to show matches even as Russian teams remain banned from all UEFA competitions.

“We have an excellent relationship with UEFA. In no case do we plan to reduce the broadcast of European cups, we will show them as much as possible,” he said.

“Even in the absence of our teams, this is premium European football, which our audience is already used to watching on Match TV.  

“We started this season with the UEFA Super Cup, plans include the Champions League, the Europa League and the Conference League.”

Match TV was forced to cut a German Bundesliga broadcast last season when pro-Ukrainian slogans appeared on screen, although Konov suggested that would not be an issue moving forward.

“Last season it was one-off situations. It depends a lot on what kind of slogans these are,” said the Russian TV figure.

“Several times there were cases when QR codes appeared in broadcasts with the possibility of transferring funds for Ukrainian military personnel. In this case, it seems strange to me to leave something like this on Russian air.”

“If you look at the end of last season or the beginning of this one, there were practically no political actions or slogans and, accordingly, there were no problems with broadcasts, with the exception of one Bundesliga game.”

Konov admitted, though, that Ukrainian teams in European competitions would not be shown on Match TV.

“We showed highlights of Dynamo Kiev's performance in the Champions League qualification in news releases and analytical programs. 

“It seems to me that today it is wrong to show games with the participation of teams from Ukraine on the air of a (Russian) federal channel – we haven’t been systematically devaluing the thesis about the absence of politics in sports for years,” he said.

Dynamo Kiev’s quest for Champions League qualification ended on Tuesday night as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to Benfica, losing the tie 5-0 on aggregate. The Ukrainians now drop into the second-tier UEFA Europa League.

UEFA confirmed at the start of May that all Russian teams would be banned from its tournaments in the 2022/23 season.

Prior to that, the Russian men’s national team was removed from the qualifying playoffs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where they had been due to meet Poland in Moscow back in March.

The Poles went on to qualify after beating Sweden in a European playoff final.