Rant: Sort it out Setanta!
Setanta’s purchase of the exclusive rights to broadcast England’s away qualifying games for The World Cup 2010 is yet another example of their aggressive attempts to muscle in on the Sky’s domination of non-terrestrial coverage of top-class football.
OK, so everything is fair in love and the televised sport war, but while Sky have always played by gentleman’s rules, allowing free-to-air channels to show highlights of games at a later time in the same day for a reasonable price, Setanta whacked a whopping £5 million price-tag on their highlight package. Thus, the BBC and ITV were locked in a bidding war with Setanta in which neither side caved in, and so terrestrial viewers could not watch any footage of an England game for the first time in over fifty years. Rubbish.
Setanta previously angered football fans by making it necessary to subscribe to both Sky and Setanta if they wanted to watch their team play in the Premiership. The Croatia game though, was the final straw, resulting in downright justified anti-Setanta chants during that and subsequent England internationals.
This is not the only example of big business’s blatant disregard for football fans. This season Channel 5 have bought the rights to the UEFA cup, the poor mans European Champion’s League. They have chosen to screen the matches in a consecutive format, which means changing the kick-off times. A round of fixtures on October 2nd demonstrated the madness of this format: Tottenham Hotspur were asked to kick of at 2.40pm in Krakow on a Thursday. Prime time! Then the football was put on hold for Neighbours and Home and Away before Everton kicked off against Standard Liege at 6.40 and Portsmouth played Portugal at 9.35pm.
Portsmouth followers complained about their kick-off time of 6pm in the first leg, which had forced them to leave work early. Although 9.35am sounds more reasonable, the problem was that the game was tied meaning that extra time ran ‘til well past midnight. Add to that the weary trip home and an early start for work the next morning and you’ve got some grumpy-arse fans. Staff weren’t all that happy either. The team got back to the hotel at 2.30am on Friday and had to fly back for a game against Stoke on Saturday.
Greedy TV stations should rub some of the pound signs out of their eyes and bloody well wake up to the reason why football is such a lucrative business in the first place: the fans. Ok, make money from covering games but this should not be at the expense of the millions of people who are, after all, your customers!
By Charlie Coffey