RTE was right to axe 'outdated' soccer show, says Dunphy
RTE pundit Eamon Dunphy has welcomed the decision to axe the station's flagship sports show 'Premier Soccer Saturday', saying the programme was "past its sell-by date" and delivered "old news".
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed how the state broadcaster had made the shock decision to discontinue the 15-year show in a bid to save up to €1.3m a year.
Setanta Sports has emerged as the frontrunner to land the lucrative contract to secure the rights to broadcast Premier League soccer highlights in Ireland.
A spokesman confirmed: "The rights haven't been offered, but if they were we would certainly look at them as we are always keen to grow our Premier League coverage."
"If they wish, they will offer the rights again to maybe terrestrial and paid TV, and if that happens we would absolutely be interested," he added.
A spokeswoman said TV3 was not in a position to comment. However, it remains uncertain whether the Premier League will enter negotiations with other Irish broadcasters.
A Premier League spokesman said: "RTE has put out this statement, that's their choice and that's what happened, but we're not in a position to say what we may or may not do with the highlights package."
RTE's head of sport Ryle Nugent has conceded job losses are inevitable. "The majority of all the people on the staff will be accommodated back into the output we have across all four platforms," he told RTE's 'News At One'.
"There undoubtedly will be an impact on the freelance people. This is a painful decision but it's a decision that's required in order to protect that core live output and that's what our audience should be looking to RTE Sport for primarily."
First broadcast in 1998, 'Premier Soccer Saturday' attracted some 200,000 viewers a week, and over the years featured panelists including Dunphy, John Giles, Graeme Souness and Liam Brady. But Dunphy said the show had become outdated due to the proliferation of live sport on TV and mobile devices.
"People know the results of games well before that programme is broadcast. Live is everything now," he told the Irish Independent.
"RTE have to be careful with their money – in sport and everywhere else – so this was a good way of doing it.
"I think it's a sign of the way things are now. We're so used to live sport, and you can get it everywhere – there's no value in old news.
"Because everything is so instant, I think 'Premier Soccer Saturday' and 'Match of the Day' are probably a little bit past their sell-by date. The pressure is on sport like it is everything else and, if a call had to be made, I think this was the wisest decision.
"I knew about their decision for a while, but I kept my mouth shut. I think it's a good decision, it's a good call."
Fellow pundit Mr Giles said he believed the show was a "good programme", adding he was surprised that such a staple in the Saturday night schedule had come to an end.
"I've been involved in it for a few years and I'm sorry to see it go like a lot of people," he said.
"I only heard the news the other day that it was finishing. I'm just disappointed that we don't have it anymore."
Paddy Power has TV3 as odds-on favourites to win the highlights package at 4/7, followed by Setanta 5/4, and TG4 at 12/1.