Ireland v Wales is first competitive match not shown on free-to-air TV in decades

Ireland’s Uefa Nations League matches are not on list of protected sports events

The Republic of Ireland team during a training session at the Cardiff City Stadium. Photograph: Inpho

The Republic of Ireland team during a training session at the Cardiff City Stadium. Photograph: Inpho

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The Uefa Nations League match between Ireland and Wales on Thursday night will be the first competitive Irish game not to be shown on free-to-air television for decades.

Though the new tournament counts as a backdoor qualifier for the 2020 European Championship, it is not listed among the events which must be shown on terrestrial television.

Under the Nations League format, the winner of each group is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs for the European Championships.

The second placed team may alternatively be given the playoff position if the winner of the group reaches the European Championship finals through the qualification route.

Ireland’s World Cup and European Championship qualifiers are protected by the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999 and statutory instrument 99 of 2003.

It states that certain listed sports events are “of major importance to society for which the right of a qualifying broadcaster to provide coverage on a live basis on free television services should be provided in the public interest”.

The sporting events listed include Ireland’s qualifying games for the World Cups and European Championships.

However, the Department of Communications does not include the Nations League as being a listed sports event.

Ireland’s match will be shown live Sky Sports, with deferred coverage on Virgin Media 3 (formally TV3’s be3 channel) starting at 10pm. It will also be available on S4C, the Welsh-language channel which is available on the Sky platform.

S4C is showing all Wales’s Nations League matches on its free-to-air platform.

Virgin Media have rights to show Nations League matches live, but not Ireland matches which are being shown exclusively on Sky Sports.

Virgin Media will show World Cup champions France playing Germany which is the plum tie of the first round of Nations League games.

A spokesman for RTÉ said it did not did not bid for the rights to show the Nations League as it decided to concentrate its resources on Ireland’s competitive Euro 2020 qualifiers beginning next year.

He confirmed that Nations League games were not protected, but that the list is only updated every three years.

The Department of Communications has yet to comment.

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