Belfast Telegraph

Ulster fans to miss out on Ireland games

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Jonathan Bradley

With the British and Irish Lions' currently preparing for three mouth-watering Tests against Australia, their bid to notch a first series win since 1997 have the eyes of the rugby-watching world firmly focused on events Down Under.

Understandably so, but with every detail of the tour pored over by media and fans alike, it would be easy to overlook an under-strength Irish team's transatlantic Tests against the USA and Canada.

That impression has no doubt not been aided by the fact that, while the Ireland games are aired on terrestrial channel TG4 in the Republic, rugby fans north of the border can only view the contests courtesy of an expensive satellite subscription.

It's a similar story for the ongoing U-20 World Cup, the Irish team's fixtures only available on Sky in the north despite being picked up by TG4 in the south.

While this raw deal may only rankle the most fanatical of rugby fans when it comes to viewing the likes of underage tournaments and senior matches that kick-off well after the witching hour, it is a scenario set to repeat itself in a more prominent fashion over the coming years.

Earlier this season the UK rights to Ireland's autumn international marquee match-ups with the Southern Hemisphere sides, were sold to Sky having previously been owned by the BBC. However, free-to-air RTE will continue to show the matches south of the border.

The disappointing dichotomy of the IRFU's negotiating means that, while the likes of Ulster's Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding will have an important part to play in Joe Schmidt's new Ireland, a majority of fans in their native province may not be able to see it.

Belfast Telegraph

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