Monday, 12 October 2009

Free to view or not to view? that is the question.

Lets face it, with the England Football team already qualified for the World Cup and very little else happening in the world of sport, this week has been a bit of a write off for Nickssportrant. Of course other nations were involved in meaningful World Cup qualification campaigns but when you don't hail from those countries its just difficult to get excited about a team that's not your own. Whilst I was sitting in the pub, watching the Irish worry a lacklustre Italian team, I wondered to myself why I was not watching England? It is not often that an England supporter can sit back, hands behind his or her head, and relax safe in the knowledge that he or she can celebrate whatever the outcome of a Qualification game may be.

Surely this is no way to build momentum before the World Cup. For the first time in a long long while this England team look dedicated to the cause and play with a real sense of purpose and drive. So what better way to eradicate the aura surrounding the team than to leave them stranded in the Ukraine with only a handful of hardcore fans able to watch via a dodgy Internet site or illegally streamed Turkish TV. Finally we have a team to be proud of and then the public isn't able to watch them play.

The Official England fan club was equally annoyed at the decision to only screen the match online and suggested that a rule should be made whereby the rights to International fixtures could only be sold to free to view television companies. There aren't really any true free to air channels any more. BBC has its license fee and sky and the rest of course all cost money. The issue is instead that rights to matches should not be allowed to be sold to Internet only channels. Firstly their picture quality is poor, secondly their coverage is poor, thirdly they restrict how many people can view the match in question. Only 1 million people were able to watch online (only 500 thousand did 200 thousand of whom were the armed forces who got it free) due to picture quality issues stemming from too many people using the live feed.

Maybe once Internet technology is up to scratch this will be the way forward in the future, but for now the FA should do more to insist that matches are screened on TV.

This is an isolated situation brought about by Setanta going bust, Football fans have little to worry about when it comes to watching the sport they love. Other sports though are really feeling the pinch of the recession and its effect on TV stations unwillingness to screen costly sporting events.

I am a great fan of boxing and am finding it increasingly difficult to watch all the fights I want to. The latest is Carl Froch's first fight in the 'Super 6 Boxing Tournament'. Froch will be fighting in front of 10,000 people on Saturday and yet the only place that will be showing the fight is little known and difficult to access satellite channel 'PrimeTime'. I'm sure that other sports must be suffering as well.

Sports fans must just hope that channels are saving their money for the World Cup next summer and that after this we can once again be spoiled with easily accessible and good to watch coverage of the sports we love. Channels also need to do a little more to support sports that could well become increasingly popular after the 2012 Olympics. Boxing is one of these. Surely a little investment now would pay off once the Olympics have come around.

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