TV money will talk in the drama of sport

Samir Nasri

Samir Nasri: Manchester City midfielder

Savour the UEFA Champions League on free to air TV in the UK while you can because ITV’s deal to show Champions League and Europa League games is coming to an end in the summer of this year.

Tonight’s game between Manchester City and Barcelona was another absorbing and dramatic feast of football for the neutral.

Barcelona ran out 2-1 winners of the first leg after blitzing a tentative Manchester City side with a brace of goals scored for former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez in the 16th and 30th minutes of an absorbing contest.

Suarez scored his first by reacting quickest when his initial header deflected off Vincent Kompany and fell invitingly for a shot from six yards out, and his second goal saw him divert Jordi Alba’s cut-back in off the far post during a quick counter attack.

Pablo Zabaleta had to clear off the line after Neymar’s flick looked goal bound while Dani Alves could have extended Barca’s lead but his chip came back off the top of the bar  before the end of a dominant first half for Barca.

City’s Edin Dzeko missed a golden chance to pull a goal back early in a much improved second half for City when he headed Kompany’s flick-on straight at Barca ‘keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Sergio Aguero curled a chance wide thanks to an excellent pass from David Silva before Silva provided a deft backheel to put his Argentine team-mate through on goal to pull one back for City who were much improved in the second half and threatened an equaliser briefly.

The resurgence was stopped in its tracks when Gael Clichy was sent off for his second bookable offence, however, and Barca were soon looking to finish off City in the closing minutes.

Hearts were in City mouths when Zabaleta tripped Lionel Messi in City’s area in injury time but Joe Hart’s penalty save gave City a glimmer of hope in a game where only Silva shone as brightly as their highly motivated, and captivatingly skilful Catalan opponents.

BT Sport will have exclusive rights to broadcast live games from the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League from the start of the 2015/2016 season for three seasons after announcing a staggering £897m deal in November 2013.

Both finals will be free on BT Sport as well as top matches from earlier rounds and BT promise that each participating British team will feature at least once for free each season.

By way of consolation to Sky subscribers, who will also lose access to Champions League football, Sky paid a staggering £5.136bn to retain the majority of Premier League games for three years from 2016-2017 and snatched the rights to the Open Golf from the BBC for five years from 2017-2022.

With pay television picking up rights to popular sporting events, there has been pressure on the list of so-called “Crown Jewels” of televised sport, which might be of interest to non-sports fans, to be protected from the circling pay-TV companies such as Sky, Virgin, and BT Sport who would pay handsomely to ringfence live viewing rights behind a (ever higher) paywall.

These include category A events (which are full live coverage protected):

  • The Olympic Games
  • The FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament
  • The European Football Championship Finals Tournament
  • The FA Cup Final
  • The Scottish FA Cup Final (in Scotland)
  • The Grand National
  • The Derby
  • The Wimbledon Tennis Finals
  • The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final
  • The Rugby World Cup Final

and category B events (for which highlights have to be on free to air TV):

  • Cricket Test matches played in England
  • Non-Finals play in the Wimbledon Tournament
  • All other matches in the Rugby World Cup Finals Tournament
  • Six Nations Rugby Tournament matches involving home countries
  • The Commonwealth Games
  • The World Athletics Championship
  • The Cricket World Cup – the final, semi-finals and matches involving home nations’ teams
  • The Ryder Cup
  • The Open Golf Championship

Currently there is a furore over the proposed timing of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022 which was recently recommended to begin in November 2022 with a Final date of December 23, 2022.

While there are plenty of voices either for or against the move within the game from fans and officials alike it will be the TV companies and sponsors who pay vast amounts of money to have these rights based on a summer tournament who will have the final say. It is these people who FIFA will have to answer to ultimately.