There’s something rather ironic that as soon as the “homely” Blue Square Awards show finishes, news reaches SW19 Towers that Setanta have been stripped of the Premier League rights.
As the award show ended with an almost impassioned plea by the presenters who somehow you feel deserve a lot better, it transpires that the Â£10m (on the drip) the TV company owed the Prem wasn’t exactly forthcoming. Therefore, the PL finally lost patience and told them to sling their hook.
Now, while Setanta isn’t doomed just yet, it’s a pretty big kick in the bollocks. Its major selling point, namely get the Premier League without getting Sky, is no more. It’s likely that the international games it currently has will also fall by the wayside, along with the SPL, UFC and NBA that it currently shows.
More importantly from our point of view, it puts one serious question mark over the BSP coverage for next season. OK, we won’t lose what we never had, but there is an act of typicalness that as soon as we get into the top level of non-league football, the TV gets pulled out of the socket. This said, there will be plenty of BSP club chairmen right this very minute sweating their brow and soiling their draws at this news.
See, as we all know deep down, the Conf will be down the pecking order. Setanta will not be able to overcome alleged debts of Â£500m even if they did show us against Luton twenty times a season. In one of the more likely scenarios, the whole network will be broken up – out will go Setanta Sports News (did anyone watch that?), the Arsenal/Liverpool/Celtic/Rangers TV channels will be sold off elsewhere and the tasty looking rights that Setanta currently hold will be carved up.
If, as SW19 predicts, that Setanta goes back to covering the GAA in UK pubs and dealing with live Prem in pubs across the world, it kind of leaves the BSP out on its own, like an unwanted child that has just had its teddy bear nicked.
Yet there is hope, and it comes ironically through its cheapness. It’s believed that the whole Conference deal was Â£2.5m (per year I guess) over five years. That is a drop in the puddle, and the mantra of TV sports channels seems to be, live TV is better than taped TV. The Conf is ideal filler, either to whet the appetite for a decent Prem game or indeed during an international weekend, which fills in that rather dead time where the games normally are. Christ, Sky have gotten so desperate in the past they’ve even been reduced to showing Franchise.
If ESPN go in for the Prem rights, they still have some space to fill. Why not the Conference? There is interest there, especially with names like Luton, Oxford, Wrexham, Chester, York, Cambridge United and some mob called KFC Wimbleton or something. If Sky took it on, they do show games – after all, they did in the past and again, the name factor will come into play. We are, seven years on, still a good “story”.
Or maybe even terrestrial stations will take the Conf on? Now that could be something – a Sunday afternoon on BBC Two, mum finishes the Sunday roast, dad sits down with a woodbine and a copy of the Express, and the rest of the family gathers round to watch Wrexham v Chester with Gary Lineker hosting it.
Whatever happens though, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Back to today’s viewing, which seemed to sum up a lot of Setanta’s output – well meaning, passionate and a desire to do well, but perhaps lacking the quality or finesse that it so desperately needed. When Jon Main’s interview sounded like the microphone was bought in the sale at Maplin, it summed the whole thing in a nutshell.
In other words – if you’ve got a copy of the Award show, for christ sakes don’t lose it. It might be valuable in three years time…