Gareth Bale celebrates his World Cup Play-off goal against Austria. Pic: Getty Images.

Wales Fans Outraged By New TV Streaming Deal. . . As Departure From Sky Sports and S4C Confirmed

By Paul Jones

Welsh football chief Noel Mooney has come in for heavy criticism from Wales fans following the announcement that TV rights for Wales matches have been sold to a subscription streaming service.

Mooney – the Football Association of Wales chief executive – tweeted on Wednesday morning that “UEFA had sold the rights for all 55 national associations for Europe”.

The suggestion was that the FAW had no say in the matter, although the rights to England matches are not included in the package that has been awarded to Viaplay, the subscription streaming service operated by Nordic Entertainment (Nent) Group.

Wales matches will be shown exclusively live on Viaplay from 2024 onwards after it was announced the streaming service has struck a four-year deal with UEFA.

Wales games are currently shown live by both Sky Sports and free-to-air in the Welsh language by S4C.

The deal, which also includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, gives Viaplay exclusive coverage of up to 40 games from the three Home Nations and around 800 European games in total.

The matches will be in all formats, from European and World Cup qualifiers to Nations League games and also friendlies, with the deal running until 2028.

The news was greeted with anger on social media with one Wales fan telling Mooney, “How come England isn’t part of this agreement Noel.  I fear you’ve sold us down the river here.

“Paying to watch Wales via another subscription service on top of football on Sky, BT and Amazon is a poor decision. The very least it should be free to view on S4C.”

Another said: “Spare the platitudes Noel, you know as we all know that this is a done deal and there won’t be live broadcasting of Cymru games on S4C.

“They will find unprincipled charlatans to commentate on a red button option similar to the rugby on Amazon! #Cywilyddus”.

Welsh media academic Gavin Allen tweeted: “This seems like a very bad move. Selling the rights to #Wales games to a streamer that doesn’t even exist yet?

“The distillation of football across multiple TV platforms is killing fans with unsustainable cost burden.”

In a story on their own website, the FAW state: “When announcing this new four-year partnership from 2024, Viaplay has made a commitment to making Cymru matches available with Welsh language commentary.”

That echoes similar sentiments made by the Welsh Rugby Union over the protection of Welsh language broadcasting when they sold the rights to Wales’ autumn internationals to Amazon.

The upshot was a red button option with a Welsh commentator and not a full Welsh language presentation and broadcast team.

The deal could now thrown into doubt S4C’s agreement to show live domestic matches from the Cymru Premier.

That arrangement was always done in the knowledge that it helped safeguard the international rights, but is those are gone then the channel may decide the comparatively low viewing figures they get for the domestic game no longer makes commercial sense.

In statement, S4C made specific mention of their wider commitment to Welsh football at all levels, including the Cymru Premier.

An S4C spokesperson said: “S4C is a proud supporter of Welsh football and has consistently provided live coverage of the Welsh national football team since 2003.

“During that time, the channel’s football coverage has expanded significantly to include coverage of the Welsh Women’s and age-grade teams, as well as unrivalled coverage of the Welsh football pyramid.

“S4C’s partnership with the Football Association of Wales has been and continues to be hugely beneficial to Welsh football as a whole.

“We are now in talks with the Football Association of Wales to further clarify the situation regarding Welsh language coverage of these matches.”

The award of rights to England’s matches has yet to be announced.

Commercial broadcaster ITV holds the rights to England’s qualification matches to major tournaments, along with selected friendly matches.

Sky secured the rights to England’s Nations League matches during the previous cycle.

Viaplay has already secured Uefa national team rights packages in Sweden, Iceland and the Baltic nations.

Anders Jensen, Nent’s group president and chief executive, promised: “These matches are in good hands – we work closely with Uefa in the Nordic and Baltic regions, and know how much national sides mean to supporters.

Viaplay’s multi-territory partnerships with rights holders will be a key advantage as we challenge further in the UK sports market.”

Viaplay. Pic: Getty Images.

The only team not included in the deal are England, but fans will also be able to watch qualifiers featuring the likes of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Anders Jensen, group president and CEO of Sweden-based NENT Group, which operates the Viaplay platform, said: “This is Viaplay’s biggest UK sports milestone so far. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have exciting young teams that millions of fans will be able to follow exclusively on our world-class platform.

“These matches are in good hands. We work closely with UEFA in the Nordic and Baltic regions and know how much national sides mean to supporters.”

 

 

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