FAI to ask Government to make up euro 2m shortfall to revised deal

 

The Football Association of Ireland is to seek Government funding to make up the €2 million reduction in TV revenue it will receive after renegotiating its deal with BSkyB over the broadcast of live soccer internationals.

The FAI is now expected to receive some €5.5 million over the four-year period since last July from deals with BSkyB giving it exclusive rights to show friendly internationals and with RTÉ to show competitive ones. This compares to the €7.5 million it had expected to receive from the original deal giving BSkyB exclusive rights to show competitive internationals.

The High Court was told yesterday that BSkyB no longer had those exclusive rights and that the deal had been renegotiated. This change was made as the Government prepared to act on new legislation allowing it to go to court to compel the FAI to allow a terrestrial Irish channel to show the competitive internationals. That legislation was passed to break the exclusive deal between the FAI and BSkyB which would have ensured that only subscribers to Sky television could see Ireland's home soccer internationals.

The FAI is to ask the Government to make up the shortfall - through funding of the domestic game - on the basis that it was Government action which led to the reduction in revenue to the association.

The Minister for Communications, Mr Ahern, said yesterday he now hoped that Ireland's next qualifying game, on June 7th against Albania, for the 2004 European championships would be shown on free television.

Talks are now under way between the FAI and RTÉ to agree a deal to show competitive home internationals on the State broadcaster. Mr Ahern said he hoped that either RTÉ or TV3 could strike a deal with the FAI.

Labour's communications spokesman, Mr Tommy Broughan, welcomed the change in the deal between the FAI and BSkyB, saying this was "a first-step to restoring free-to-air access to these events".

Government incompetence in not listing sporting events three years ago to be protected under EU legislation had led to the FAI/BSkyB deal and to the possible necessity for court action, he said. "Thankfully, that situation is now changing and the national team is back where it belongs - playing before all the Irish public and not just those with a Sky cable package or visitors to pubs and clubs."