ESPN picks up AFL in UK and Ireland

Friday, July 31 2009 @ 11:39 pm ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

Press release from the AFL

Australian Football League Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan today announced the AFL had agreed to a new and exclusive deal with ESPN for its broadcast rights into the United Kingdom and Ireland for the remainder of 2009 through to the end of the 2011 AFL season.

The agreement will see ESPN air three matches each round of the home and away season(s), as well as a number of Finals, including the Grand Final. All matches will be broadcast on ESPN’s new channel, which is set to launch on Monday 3 August on Sky Channel 417, and will also be available in High Definition via Sky Channel 443. Coverage will kick off with the Round 19 blockbuster between finals contenders Carlton and Geelong on Friday 7 August, live from the MCG.
Mr McLachlan said the partnership with ESPN would ensure that the large number of AFL fans in the UK and Ireland receive the highest standard in broadcast coverage.

“We are delighted that we have been able to secure a partnership with ESPN, one of the world’s leading sports entertainment companies, as our broadcast rights partner in the UK and Ireland. Their commitment to AFL coverage enables us to deliver the very best of the AFL to our growing fan base in the UK and Ireland, for the remainder of the 2009 season and beyond.

This partnership reaffirms the widespread appeal of our game, which continues to go from strength to strength as a sport enjoyed by fans around the globe.”

ESPN’s Jeroen Oerlemans, Vice President, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa said ESPN was thrilled to acquire the AFL rights.

“ESPN’s aim is to serve UK and Ireland sports fans by bringing the very best of both domestic and international live sport to their living rooms. As one of Australia’s most popular sports, we are delighted to add the Australian Football League to our growing portfolio of live sport.

We have a long history together as the AFL was one of our first sports properties in the US when ESPN launched its sports channel 30 years ago. This season we will join the AFL at a critical point, with four rounds remaining and 12 teams battling for a place in the AFL Finals Series."

The AFL’s deal with ESPN follows the demise of the previous rights holder, Setanta Sports, which ceased broadcasting in the UK in late June. While Setanta Ireland had continued to air two live matches weekly, this weekend’s Round 18 games will be the last before ESPN takes over from Round 19 onwards.

Fans in the UK and Ireland will be able to access up to date information on ESPN’s match broadcasts each week from the AFL website, http://www.afl.com.au. More information on ESPN's offering can be found at http://www.espn.co.uk

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