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Sports: Virtual fans for La Liga; DAZN bags EPL in Spain; Championship clubs to stream remaining matches; Tennis number 1 Djokovic slams ‘impossible’ US Open; beIN Sports agrees Top Rank boxing deal

Spain’s La Liga, which will be the second major European football league to resume following the coronavirus pandemic, has revealed a number of new broadcast experiences for when it restarts this week.

The league said that there will be two main innovations: virtualisation of stands and fan audio, and new camera positions. Both measures will be implemented by La Liga’s official production partner Mediapro.

The first measure will see the stands virtualised with to-scale images of seated fans in the crowd and virtual sounds from the FIFA 20 videogame – a move previously mooted by the English Premier League.

The second measure is the addition of new camera positions to provide audiences with views of matches that would previously have affected the sightline of fans in the stands.

LaLiga President Javier Tebas said: “We have made these broadcasting changes so fans can enjoy LaLiga.We work with global partners to offer a great viewer experience. We are in an exceptional situation, but for us it has been important to be able to adapt and offer a compelling, cutting-edge broadcast to our fans.”

DAZN to stream remainder of Premier League season in Spain

Elsewhere in Spanish sports broadcasting, streaming service DAZN will show all 92 remaining English Premier League matches live and exclusively in the country when it resumes on June 17.

DAZN will also show all the matches for the remainder of the season in Canada and Japan, and show two EPL matches a week in Brazil as a part of a separate sub-licencing deal.

The disruptive sports group has a three year deal with the league to cover the three seasons from 2019/20 to 2021/22 in Canada, Japan and Spain.

Championship clubs to stream matches

While the English Premier League will be broadcast in its entirety across pay and free TV, the second-tier Championship will only see 30 of its remaining 108 rematches available for broadcast via linear TV.

As a solution, every club in the league will be able to stream their matches on their official websites thanks to an agreement with the English Football League and Sky Sports.

All club season ticket holders will be compensated for the matches they are missing in person by being given access to all fixtures on the iFollow streaming service or club-equivalent platform for free.

Matches will also be available on a pay-per-view basis while individual clubs will decide on who else is eligible for free access to live games.

Sky’s existing agreement to exclusively provide coverage of the 15 playoff games across all three EFL divisions will stay in place.

Rick Parry chairman of the EFL, said: “There is no question that Covid-19 has detrimentally affected all industries and, whilst we have only ever wanted to return when it is safe to do, we have always understood that when we did, we had to balance the requirements of our broadcast partners with the unique and challenging financial circumstances that our clubs face.

“We are delighted to have reached such an agreeable and sensible arrangement that ensures the financial impact to Clubs is minimised, Sky Sports are able to get their football business back up with one of the most eagerly anticipated Championship run-ins in years and, importantly, fans get access to games during a period where guidelines prevent them from attending in person.”

Sky Sports managing director, Rob Webster, added: “The partnership between Sky Sports and the EFL supports clubs and their communities across the country. We are pleased to have reached a solution which works for them; and appreciate the positive and collaborative spirit of the negotiations.”

The move has already been criticised by fans who do not feel that a stream is adequate compensation for the hundreds of pounds they have spent on their season ticket, particularly when a refund is not available to them.

Michael Ganley, the chief of cash-stripped Sunderland’s official fan group, branded the decision “a disgrace,” adding: “I can’t believe this club, which has spent two years using every opportunity to grab a headline a preaching how much they are with the fans, would do this at a time when many are in need. They should hand their heads in shame.”

Fans in the stands as Bulgarian league resumes

Though it is somewhat of a minnow in terms of its international standings, the First Professional Football League of Bulgaria has sparked controversy with its decision to allow fans in the stadium amid the pandemic.

The league resumed on Friday with Lokomotiv Plovdiv’s 2-0 victory over Etar Veliko Tarnovo, but thanks to an order by the country’s Sports Minister on Tuesday, the club was allowed to fill its stadium up to 30% capacity.

Fans had their temperature taken and were told to keep their distance and only occupy every third seat, but TV footage showed many violating the latter order. In spite of televised evidence, the sports ministry said that the match went ahead with fans observing the rule.

Bulgaria has fared better than many European countries amid the pandemic, with 2,727 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and less than 200 deaths. Its state of national emergency was lifted on May 14.

US Open ‘impossible’ says Djokovic

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic has said that August’s planned US Open is ‘impossible’ as a result of measures he called “extreme”.

The tennis season had been suspended until July, with the French Open being moved to September and Wimbledon being cancelled altogether. The US Open is set to be the first grand slam since the postponement, but Djokovic said that he is sceptical it will go ahead.

The world number one told Serbia’s Prva TV: “The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme. We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week. Also, we could bring one person to the club which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.”

He suggested that the organisers want the tournament to go ahead “at any cost for economic reasons” but questioned how many players would be “willing to accept those terms.”

The US has been the worst hit country in the world by the pandemic with just shy of 2 million confirmed cases and over 110,000 deaths – over a quarter of the global total.

beIN Sports agrees Top Rank boxing deal

Broadcaster beIN Sports has announced a deal to exclusively air all Top Rank boxing events for the next two years in France.

Running to June 2022, the deal will see 26 Top Rank events broadcast each year with fighters including Tyson Fury, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford.

The first fight to be broadcast will be Shakur Stevenson vs Felix Caraballo on June 9 followed by Jessie Magdaleno vs Yenifel Vicente on June 11.

The deal will also see beIN gain access to Top Rank’s achieve programming, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Martin Aurenche, vice president of sports content and acquisitions at beIN Media Group said: “We are delighted to have secured the rights to broadcast Top Rank boxing events for the next two years, delivering live action from some of the world’s best fighters as well as an incredible archive of programming of some of the most memorable fights in history. Top Rank fights are known internationally for their high quality and excitement, so this deal brings the best of boxing to our subscribers, whilst also expanding and diversifying our sports offering in France.”

Bob Arum, founder of Top Rank, said: “We are pleased to announce that our incredibly talented roster of fighters will be seen on beIN Sports throughout France, which has a rich and storied boxing history. I applaud beIN Sports’ commitment to boxing, and I look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership.”