GERRY THORNLEY ON RUGBY:
EAMON RYAN is no fool. In seeking to vastly expand the number of sports events to be screened free-to-air on terrestrial television, the Minister for Communications has done his research. He has also identified a problem regarding the exclusivity of television audiences on pay-per-view. Sport should never become too smug about this and sometimes governments need to keep an eye on them.
Minister Ryan is also on familiar terrain. He attended Gonzaga, played in UCD and his family, including an uncle who played for Munster, is steeped in the game. Thus, when he recently proposed that Ireland?s Six Nations games and Irish Heineken Cup games be ring-fenced on free-to-air television, it was all the more heartfelt.
Minister Ryan cites audience figures for Leinster quarter-finals which were on terrestrial television and then on pay-per-view, which drew audiences of 250,000 and 70,000 respectively. He points to the Munster-Biarritz final of
2006 which drew 500,000 viewers in Ireland, and the 2008 decider which attracted just 100,000, and countless examples from other sports.
He wants his son and a generation of young fans to be able to watch these matches without going to the pub or a clubhouse, not to mention pensioners and others, and these are all valid concerns ? although the spin-off to clubs and pubs shouldn?t be overlooked.