Belfast Telegraph

Auntie deserves the red card for failing to give us what we want

By Henry McDonald

Yesterday was transfer deadline day for the English Premiership, which broke a new record - with clubs in the top flight spending more than one billion pounds on getting in extra players before the window closed at midnight.

Combined with the money forked out to other clubs, ranging from Juventus to Porto, the wages of the new stars joining the likes of Manchester United and City, Chelski, Liverpool and even, yes, my beloved Everton will probably bring Premiership expenditure to at least three billion pounds in this late summer.

The inflation in transfer fees and wages grows ever more obscene, and the dominance of Sky Sports (with those dreadful Sky Sports pub fans you encounter wearing Premiership shirts in the sport bars of Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland) is an ever expanding bubble that surely one day is going to burst.

Given that most of the gold still flowing into the Premiership comes from the Murdoch treasure chest, alongside a smaller contribution from BT Sports, it would be surely up to licence fee-backed public broadcasters - such as the BBC and RTE - to ensure non-subscription viewers get to see some local sport on terrestrial television?

RTE still does a magnificent job broadcasting Gaelic sports and BBC Northern Ireland deserves at least some credit for its excellent but far too short Irish League Show - although it is only shown online. Given that BBC NI has the exclusive rights to cover Irish League football, surely the time is right to create a dedicated slot for local soccer on terrestrial television once a week.

As fans here pointed out in today's Belfast Telegraph story, in which more than 1,000 fans have criticised the Beeb for relegating Irish league to online coverage only, RTE has done a sterling job for League of Ireland football of late. Its dedicated weekly programme is an intelligent round-up of weekly matches and contains plenty of smart, erudite commentary. Surely BBC Northern Ireland could do the same?

As a Cliftonville fan who has seen better matches last season compared to Premiership clashes at Goodison Park - the 3-3 draw with Linfield at home on Saturday was a more entertaining game than the dull 1-1 draw between the Toffees and our neighbours across Stanley Park the following day - I would love to watch a BBC1 or BBC2 hour-long programme not only showing the highlights of all of the matches but containing some interesting, original analysis too. Local football writers Stephen Looney and Mark McIntosh are flying the flag for the Irish league online stations NVTV on Freeview Ch 7 and Virgin 159 with their own soccer discussion programme.

Ex-players turned pundits such as the excellent Chris Morgan on the BBC's internet show should be given a greater airing on terrestrial TV. For us fans - the real ones, as opposed to the Sky Sports pub supporters - who actually follow the Irish League and want it to prosper, it is time for the Beeb to shift its coverage from online to mainstream telly.

Belfast Telegraph


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