RTÉ has robustly defended its policy around televising Irish clubs in European competition following pointed criticism from Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
"I think tonight would have been good value for the licence payer," said Bohs manager Keith Long after Tuesday's 2-1 victory over Greek giants PAOK at the Aviva Stadium, a match that was not considered for live coverage by RTÉ as it only plans to show European games involving the Airtricity League champions Shamrock Rovers.
However, Thursday night’s Europa Conference League qualifier between Rovers and KS Teuta of Albania in Tallaght stadium starting at 8pm will not be shown by the national broadcaster as it clashes with the Olympic Games coverage. Rovers were not prepared to bring forward the kick-off to 5pm at short notice.
RTÉ also passed on Rovers’ Champions League qualifier at home to Slovan Bratislava on July 13th as it came two days after the Euros coverage ended a month of live games, but both parties remain in negotiations to televise the next round against Omonia of Cyprus or Estonia’s Flora Tallinn, should Stephen Bradley’s side progress.
“We have made attempts to show Rovers games in Europe,” said an RTÉ spokesperson. “We offered to show the Teuta game at 5pm, and we will endeavour to show the Europa Conference League play-off round.”
If Rovers are knocked out by Tueta, RTÉ would welcome an approach from Bohs or Dundalk if either side manages to get passed PAOK or Vitesse.
“As a league, as an association, as a sport, maybe we need to take control of that ourselves,” Long continued. “It is disappointing that we always seem to be scraping for the crumbs at the big table when it comes to getting that sort of exposure. It is frustrating. I don’t think it would happen in other sports like GAA or rugby.”
RTÉ would argue that an Allianz League football or hurling match in winter would command three times the audience figures of an Irish club in Europe.
“I think we got to start forgetting about the TV companies that are here and refuse to show the games,” said Bradley, the Rovers manager. “I think the streaming has been really good. I know people say the viewing numbers [are miniscule] but I think that is nonsense, we’ve got to give it time and build the product over a period of years and make the package really appealing to everyone.
“Maybe we can get interest from outside of this country because what we have, right now, does not respect the quality and the work that goes in.
“As long as they are the ones that are running things, we will continue to get what we are getting.”
Bradley rejected the suggestion that the lack of RTÉ coverage has been exacerbated this summer by the Euros and the Olympics.
“It’s not just this year, let’s not kid ourselves,” the Dubliner responded. “It’s the last however long I’ve been around the league. It’s a token gesture when the game is shown and it’s wrong. You are always thrown back ‘the numbers’ but you’re not going to get the numbers when the games are kicking off at 7.45 and you put coverage on at 7.35 and you’re off five minutes after full time. It’s a token gesture.
“We need to build our own package so when we sit down at a table in a few years time we have a real product to put forward that is taken seriously and the ‘numbers’ can’t be thrown in our face.”