Monday, 8 June 2009


Most bloggers will be indulging in either shadenfraude, sheer glee or self-flagellation today over the euro-election results but there was news over the weekend which should concern sports followers

It seems that Setanta is more than likely to go into adminstration in the next ten days and the knock-on effects could be highly worrying indeed.

Football has morphed into a bloated entity with huge amounts of money being spent on players and clubs. With massive debts in top clubs, all monies being bought in are welcome. However, in eight days time, Sentanta is due to pay the remaining £35m to the Premiership League for telly rights. With only 1.2m subscribers it is clear that the £550mgamble hasn't worked.

The 54 in TW2 will be concerned at the latest turn of events as well. In December, the RFU sold the rights to nearly two-thirds of premiership games to Setanta. However, if there's no Setanta, rugby coverage will be severly reduced and the additional money that was promised to clubs will be gone.

In both cases rights will probably revert to the the two Premiership, however, in football the resell rights will probably be significantly less than the original price for 23 games. With Sky Sports probably restricted by competition rules, it means there are few players out there. ITV is stumbling along, painfully hit by the advertising recession and Channels 4&5 are unlikely to bid in their financial states either.

So who will bid for football rights? Well, I suspect that American firm ESPN will make a bid. The broadcaster is known to want football and this could be a bargain bucket way of getting its foot in the door. The implications for Sky could be large as ESPN has bigger pockets then Murdoch and the Premier league could look favourably on future bids.

In Rugby's case, this could not have come at a more difficult time. With clubs and the RFU finally, or should that be seemingly (?), calling a truce, a lot depended on the extra cash available to fund England prospects. So rugby faces the double hit of less coverage and less money - not a good place to be in a recession.

Will Sky pick up the rest of the package? Unlikely. It is refocussing its rugby coverage to the new Anglo-Welsh cup, Autumn internationals and European cups. Will anyone else bother? ITV is not renewing its higlights package and the BBC appears to hate Rugby Union (outside of BBC Wales) so the rights are up for grabs and as usual the supporter will lose out as well as the clubs.

And that is without mentioning the Celtic League!

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