Author: Syedur Rahman 24 January 2022
Syed Rahman of business litigation specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the case.
A court ordered a Chinese broadcaster to pay England’s Premier League at least $213 million for missed payments in a $700 million football TV rights deal.
The High Court in London granted The Football Association Premier League Ltd summary judgment in its fight to recover money owed by PPLive Sports International Ltd, under a contract for the broadcast of live Premier League games and match highlights.
The Premier League had terminated a three-year deal with PPLive in August 2020 - after just one season - because of missed payments. The Chinese company had not paid $210.3 million that was due in March 2020 or $2.7 million due for highlights videos in June 2020.
COVID-19 restrictions meant that Premier League matches were suspended in March 2020 until June that year, when matches were then played without fans in stadiums. PPLive, which owns Italian football club Inter Milan, said it suffered substantial losses because of these changes.
But Judge Peter Fraser said that the way the Premier League season was resumed in 2020 did not amount to "fundamental changes" that would have given PPLive the grounds to seek a reduction in the fees it paid to broadcast the matches.
He added: "In many commercial contracts, events may transpire other than as anticipated by one, or even both, contracting parties. That does not mean that the court will re-write the parties' bargain and impose different terms upon them to suit those later events. That is not the function of the law of contract."
PP Live argued that the COVID-19 pandemic had had far-reaching effects on the 2019-20 football season, and the judge did acknowledge the impact of coronavirus. Yet the court emphasised that the lack of fundamental change to the format of the competition was important. As no party sought to argue that the pandemic was a force majeure event (a natural and unavoidable catastrophe), there was no need to consider whether there had been a material adverse effect on the exercise of the defendant’s rights.
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