IFA sign up to Sky Sports

At £6million the Belfast Telegraph seem to have underestimated the deal between Sky Sports and the IFA, it does dwarf the previous £2.5million the BBC paid to cover the Euro 2008 qualifiers, but IFA president Jim Boyce has claimed the new deal is worth five times that [£2.5million] amount. BBC Northern Ireland’s head of sport, Mike Edgar gave his reaction here

“We understand that football is now big business and that sports rights are in an increasingly competitive territory, but we are disappointed at the timing of this announcement, given that we were due to meet with the IFA’s representative next week when the specifics of a formal offer were due to have been discussed.”

It’s doubtful that the BBC could have matched Sky Sports in a bidding war.. and it’s equally doubtful that any resultant deal would represent value for money.

ANYhoo.. According to the IFA statement

The new live broadcast deal includes:

FULL INTERNATIONALS: All home matches for four years from May 2008, including qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup Finals and 2012 European Championship Finals, plus friendly matches – exclusively live on Sky Sports.

UNDER-21 INTERNATIONALS: At least two U-21 matches each season for four years, from the start of 2008-09 until the close of 2011-12 – exclusively live on Sky Sports.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Five live fixtures each season from the Carnegie Premier League for five years, starting this August and running until the end of 2011-2012.


  • SuperSoupy

    Boyce’s reaction to Hoey’s hope the money would benefit soccer and not be wasted was bizarre. Pretty much – ‘We’ll waste the money how we please – English bitch’

    A very angry and OTT response.

  • Roger

    Does this mean people who don’t have sky wont be able to watch NI anymore, that is disappointing and if its true its a bad move.

  • assemblywatchman

    odd question you pose Roger. what else could it possibly mean?

  • Roger

    In that case as a FOOTBALL fan I believe that this is a very bad move.

  • Pete Baker


    In re: Your interpretation of Jim Boyce’s reaction – ‘We’ll waste the money how we please – English bitch’

    Hmmm.. that seems like an excessively pejorative interpretation in order to fit your “angry and OTT” paraphrasing.

    What Jim Boyce actually said..

    “For this association to go where we all want it to go, money is a very vital ingredient,” added the IFA president.

    The IFA’s previous deal with the BBC was worth more than £2m and Boyce said that the new contract “is worth approximately five times more”.

    “A sensible person will realise that this is being done in the interests purely of the Irish Football Association but more importantly in the interests of football at all levels in Northern Ireland.”

  • George

    “Does this mean people who don’t have sky wont be able to watch NI anymore, that is disappointing and if its true its a bad move.”

    It does indeed. I don’t know Northern Ireland’s “national status” in the sense of what power it has but under EU law you can designate a limited number major sporting events so that they have to be shown on free terrestrial channels.

    The All-Ireland finals (and I think the Six Nations) are designated as such in the Irish Republic.

    If it’s possible, and I haven’t the slightest idea whether it is or not, all we need now is for the newly convened Assembly, if they have the requisite power, to designate NI games accordingly.

  • Roger


    Thats not going to happen, its likely that if any sports are going to be designated they will be Gaelic and Ireland rugby matches.

  • GavBelfast

    Pete, in relation to Kate Hoey MP, SS above may be exaggerating, but the substance of what he has written is correct: a flustered Jim Boyce said he didn’t think it was any of her business. The clip is on Friday’s BBC Newsline 6.30.

    Boyce’s bombast won’t go down with many fans who tend to see Hoey as an outspoken fans’ ‘champion’, whereas he and his colleagues like IFA Chief Executive Howard Wells – with whom there appears to be a frosty and unusual relationship – tend to be viewed with a mixture of suspicion and derision.

    The money side of this deal seems good, but while sports nuts who have access to Sky and people now lucky enough to have tickets might be happy enough therefore, it’s bad news for everyone else. When a sport or team largely disappears from bog-standard, domestic television, their profile tends to lessen, too.

    We had better hope things stay rosy on the pitch, for just as the IFA hasn’t shown loyalty this time to the BBC, Sky certainly won’t if this product doesn’t deliver.

  • SuperSoupy


    I watched Boyce’s response to Hoey’s comments, your transcript has nothing to do with what he said.

    He was angry and described her as an ‘outsider’ despite her raising local’s (including fans) should be part of ensuring the £10million isn’t wasted.

    He seemed to think it was wrong that it could be suggested money might be wasted by the IFA. I doubt many agree.

  • GavBelfast

    Correct, SS.

  • Cahal


    “under EU law you can designate a limited number major sporting events so that they have to be shown on free terrestrial channels”

    Could the Dublin government not designate NI soccer games as a major Irish (does it even need to be Irish?) sporting event and show them on RTE.

    Then any poor prods without sky could watch the north play on RTE. On second thoughts, is RTE available terrestrially in Belfast (where I assume most north fans live)?

  • John East Belfast

    When he says the deal is worth 5 times the BBC deal he is putting a bit of a spin on it – ie this is a 4 year deal compared to a 2 year one.

    There is an issue of loyalty to both BBC and the fans.

    The BBC stuck by NI when things were rough as it was part of their duty – Sky wont.

    Also there are many elderly people, at least, who will now not see live football. Over the next 4 years we only have a 13,000 seater stadium so how many people are now going to miss it altogether ?

  • John East Belfast

    Also I notice this is the Home matches – who is doing the Away ones ?

    Are the BBC going to pick up the tab for these ?

  • I am surprised that there has been such a positive spin on this story among the local media(surprisingly that extended to BBC Newsline last night even though they had just lost the contract!).

    I am a Republic fan so I am not directly affected, however I have always had deep concerns at how Sky Television has deprived many working class people of seeing and enjoying a wide range of major sports.

    There is no benefit in this at all for the wider NI public. Once Sky take over, it will deprive hundreds of thousands of people who dont subscribe to their service (because it is too expensive) of the chance of seeing these inernational matches. It will also greatly decrease the general public profile of the NI team which had been very high over the past few years. There is no way that BBC will remotely devote as much coverage to them, having lost the contract. Business is business after all…


    The one upside, of course, is that we wont have to endure the amateurish and near hysterical commentaries of J.Fullerton Esq,…

  • John East Belfast


    Do both Sky and RTE do ROI Home matches ?

  • John,

    Yes they do. The Dail passed legislation which prevented Sky from having sole access to the screening of competitive International matches. Both Sky and RTE screen home games.

    Im not sure if the new NI Assembly would bother getting involved in this or not? I somewhow doubt it as, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the proposed financial windfall from The Sky Contract, although to be honest, this will have little benefit for ordinary fans.

  • John East Belfast


    Thanks – but did this legislation get passed after Sky had signed the deal and is there any indication that they wont be doing so next time ?

    ie I cant see what is in this for Sky if people can get for free on terrestial what they are trying to charge for ?

  • GavBelfast

    The legislation was passed in the Dail AFTER Sky had signed the exclusive deal. Of course, the exclusive deal to live RoI competitive, home internationals (it doesn’t apply to friendlies) is still exclusive outside RoI.

    As Scotland and Wales already took the Murdoch shilling (though a lot more shilling than the IFA is getting), and nothing was done there, I doubt if anything will be done in NI.

    A good highlights package on BBC (or UTV, though their sports coverage is atrocious and virtually non-existent anyway) is the best we can hope for now – and I think it’s a necessity for wide exposure in the general populus.

  • John,

    Sky state that they still get quite high viewing figures for ROI internationals mainly from ex-pat irish fans. ie There would be a large Irish community in Britain generally who would view these games on Sky. So, I suppose that it is still financially beneficial for them to continue screening such games. Whether that will continue in the long-term, I’m not entirely sure.

    Its always sad when many ordinary people are deprived of seeing major sporting fixtures. I recognise the business realities of such decisions, but I remember how much I enjoyed television sport when I was growing up, and I feel really sorry for those who will now be deprived of it.

  • dodrade

    “The BBC stuck by NI when things were rough as it was part of their duty – Sky wont.”

    Of course they won’t but the IFA won’t get offered £10 milion again in a hurry so why not take it when you can.

    “Also I notice this is the Home matches – who is doing the Away ones?”

    I believe the rights to away games are held by the home teams and are negociated on a game by game basis, so there is a good chance the BBC will still show a couple of away games.

  • There is no guarantee that away games will necessarily be shown on the BBC either. Because there is ‘open-bidding’ on these fixtures with the respective International FA’s, it can be a bit hit and miss as to who gets them. Setanta have already stated that it is their intention to screen away internationals to add to their broadening portfolio of football content.

    In the South, TV3 have outbid RTE several times and screened away games, but at least they were a terrestrial station. The real danger would be if someone like Setanta started bidding for live coverage of NI or Republic away games..

  • Ziznivy


    The away matches will be individually dealt with by the host associations. Whoeever wishes to buy the games can show them. Remember Channel 5 buying an away game against moldova and not showing it?!

  • IJP

    Sometimes our attitude here in NI staggers me!

    It is patently obvious Sky is offering a vastly better deal than the BBC – not just more money, but also better coverage (and then not just better commentators and analysis, but five Irish League games too).

    Let’s step back a few years (only a few) to when the Irish League was higher quality than the League of Ireland. In the past few years (i.e. during this century), the League of Ireland has not only come sailing past, but has also gone entirely professional.

    The main difference? The FAI has had a deal with Sky, the IFA hasn’t.

    Why are we so keen on being left out from the big money and the best coverage?!

    (And as for people not having Sky, there are pubs which always offer the best atmosphere anyway – and they’re even smoke-free!)

  • GavBelfast


    In this much vaunted Southern Irish league, one team went to the wall last year, another (Shelbourne) is on the brink, and many others are in financial peril.

    All is not well. Did you know?

    The ‘new’ money, though it was exagggerated yesterday, will be handy IF it is used well and isn’t squndered by the likes of Wells – and Boyce, who yesterday basically told interested fans to keep their nose out. Forgive those of us who are sceptical.

  • John East Belfast

    It is a good deal for Sky.

    It only needs about an extra 6000 northern Ireland Sky viewers paying about £40 per month to make this break even over 4 years -if Jimmy Boyce is to be believed on the £12.5m deal.

    It is well acknowledged that with present form NI could sell another 5000 season tickets and often another 5000 tickets for individual matches after that. Even more when the big teams come.

    There are several tens of thousands of NI BBC fans for each game – many already have Sky but a lot more wont and this will be another incentive for some to take the leap – however many simply wont be able to afford it.

    Why does the BBC always have enough money when it comes to the England games ? – how much could/would Sky pay for them ?

    However this is not private club football and overall when it comes to national sport this should be about more than money. IFA has an obligation to ensure that the country’s supporters have as wide an access as possible to the games – especially if we only have a 13000 seater stadium at present.

    I also hope they are putting aside a lot of the money to be competitive in the Manager market.

  • Munster Republic

    Will sky now be doing triple bill nights to please the fans? Linfield, Rangers, and the North games? Or even better there Greatest moments with commentary in the so called ulster-scots! This could be a small money spinner! With advertisements at half time for buckfast, burberry baseball caps, tattoo parlors, and Chav jewelry stores with a little propaganda in the middle from paisley and his views on the Catholic religion. I would tune in, would u ?

  • jone


    I guess the BBC always have enough money for England games because they deliver such vast audiences that the cost per viewer is still reasonable value for money – whereas Northern Ireland’s comparable tiny audience means the cost per viewer starts to look prohibitive over a pretty low threshold.

  • interested

    Exactly how did the BBC ‘stick by’ Northern Ireladn football?

    A few years ago it was barely possible to get a game on tv – things changed once NI started doing a little better of course.

    Look at the wider picture too – the BBC doesnt even bother itself producing a highlights programme for Irish League games. It doesnt care less about football, it simply gets thrown in for a few minutes on Season Ticket. If Sky are going to give some attention to NI and not the passing interest which some in the BBC seem to feel they have to give every so often, then all to the good.

    The big issue now is whether Boyce and the rest in Windsor Avenue squander the money or actually manage to make some good use of it. Jimbo doesnt need any more trips to the sunbed anyway so they could start with ensuring that the Under 21 squad doesnt fold every 2 minutes because of a lack of funds. They can plough money into grassroots football because that’s how NI fans and more importantly players of the future will be found.

    The number of people watching games wont be so massively different. There’s been a lot of talk about ‘poorer’ people not being able to watch matches. That would include me (apart from the fact I go to the home matches). Most of the ‘poor’ people I see mind you are the ones in their Housing Exec houses with Sky+ beamed onto their plasma screens.

    The away matches are an entirely separate matter. The IFA dont have rights to those – the rights are held by the host country so if the BBC really are such caring souls about NI football then they’ll go out of their way to ensure that they get the rights for all the away games and produce a programme to match their supposed commitment.

    The only big downside I do see to the Sky deal is the fact that they’ll probably push for a change to some kick-off times so that NI matches dont clash with others on the same day. Sat lunchtime kickoffs just dont have the same atmosphere.

  • oilibhear Chromaill

    BBC NI should consider itself lucky to have saved £2.5m+ because it will need that cash to pay towards fulfilling its obligations towards more TV programming in Irish in the north…..

  • BonarLaw

    oilibhear Chromaill


  • Reader

    OC: BBC NI should consider itself lucky to have saved £2.5m+ because it will need that cash to pay towards fulfilling its obligations towards more TV programming in Irish in the north…
    Just buy some in. It’s a buyers market, I suspect.
    Or they could just save some money by re-broadcasting Give My Head Peace, dubbed.

  • roger


    Its bad enough in English

  • austin

    ‘Or they could just save some money by re-broadcasting Give My Head Peace, dubbed.’

    I thought it was already dubbed.

  • gordon in philly

    For purely selfish reasons, I welcome the Sky deal, as we now should be able to get Norn Iron games in the States. Alot of fans over here and, no doubt, worldwide very rarely get to see the GAWA, having to put up with the fawning over a sub par England team or ROI.
    It also should help to raise the profile of the side, therefore bringing in revenue from previously unexplored sources.