Contributed by: Brett Northey
One of the ongoing complaints of Aussie Rules fans outside of Australia is the lack of access to watching AFL matches. Although the AFL website offers video streaming of games there have been plenty of people unhappy with its reliability and image quality. The dream for many supporters has been to get coverage on readily accessible cable/satellite television in their country. AFANA has long been at the forefront of pushing for this in North America and in 2006 the efforts of the Setanta network were generally well received. Now 2007 looks like a great advance, with Setanta locked in to AFL coverage through to 2011, adding unprecedented certainty. The network are also offering more live games and extending the service to Ireland and the United Kingdom in a move that can only assist the profile of the game.
AFANA reports on their website that "The AFL and Setanta have confirmed a five year deal for live coverage of up to three AFL matches per round beginning this season in the US, UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and Canada and delayed coverage of the remaining five matches, schedules permitting". This is an enormous step forward for the game and could prove to be a goldmine for developing leagues that have previously only had occasional video tapes or brief highlights to show new or prospective recruits. Imagine how much more quickly a player may learn and embrace the game by being able to see multiple matches each week.
One fan was straight into the action, writing on the AFANA forum: "My ITVN box arrived today and I had it hooked up in about 20 minutes (although did have to manually set the IP address). The quality is MUCH better than I had anticipated. I have just settled down to watch Kangaroos v Collingwood live and it is very watchable. Can't wait to watch the Cats live tomorrow night thump the Bulldogs. Anyway, just wanted to report a very positive first up experience with ITVN and Setanta."
For some access will be at home via DirecTV or venues showing matches, while others may need ITVN. How exactly the details are implemented and people gain access in any given area will no doubt remain somewhat complicated, and WFN recommends people contact Setanta and/or keep a close eye on AFANA for more information. It's a pleasure just to be able to visit the Setanta TV schedules for some of the countries and see live Australian Rules football listed (in some areas on Setanta Sports 2) - we all say it's a great product if only more of the world was exposed to it - this is a very positive step in that direction. It won't change things overnight, but it will help.
You can read two AFANA press releases here:
Press Release Issued by AFANA
AFL and Setanta Conclude Ground Breaking Deal For North America, UK
World Footy News would like to add their congratulations to Setanta for taking a risk on the sport, the AFL for delivering the kind of deal fans have been demanding for years, and to AFANA for all their efforts over 11 years in lobbying for this to happen. Let's hope Setanta get a boost in consumers and are inspired to help grow the product throughout their coverage areas.
World Footy News