Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley believes League of Ireland clubs need to stop wasting their time worrying about TV companies who don’t show their games.
Bradley and Bohemians boss Keith Long have both been critical of the blackout on European action this season with no Irish station coming forward to show their respective ties.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Europa Conference League clash with Teuta Dorres of Albania, Bradley said the current TV arrangement is a “nonsense” and says the situation where clubs have to go “begging” for their games to be shown wouldn’t happen in other countries.
He feels that clubs should just press ahead with pushing games on their own streaming platform even if the viewing figures are low.
Bohemians had informal talks with RTE staff about showing their three games at the Aviva Stadium but they did not go anywhere.
RTE's schedule at the moment is dictated by the Olympics coverage and they have also prioritised Rovers - as the League of Ireland champions - over the other clubs.
The national broadcaster wanted to show the Hoops' game this evening but could only do so if the kickoff in Tallaght was moved to 5pm and Rovers were unwilling to do that. A station spokesman said they are in talks about showing the final playoff round if the Hoops advance - and it's possible they would switch to Bohs or Dundalk in the event they qualified and Bradley's team were knocked out.
But Bradley feels the terms of engagement are all wrong. “I think we have to look outside and start forgetting about the TV companies here who refuse to show the games,” he said.
“We can’t keep going cap in hand to these people and begging them to show talented footballers playing at a really high level and producing. We can’t keep doing that. It’s like you are forcing their hand to actually show these games,
“The streaming has been really good. I know people say ‘numbers’ (have been low) but I think that’s nonsense as you have to give it time and build the product over years and let’s see where we can take it.
“Maybe we can get interest from outside this country because what we have right now doesn’t respect the quality and the work that goes in.
“It will continue to be that way as long as they are the ones we’re running to.
“I think we need to completely break away from it and go our own way. It might hurt us for a couple of years, but that’s fine.
“I believe it is at one of the strongest periods it’s been in terms of the quality throughout the league for young players. It’s really, really high.
“We need to showcase that. You are always thrown back ‘the numbers’ but you’re not going to get the numbers when the games kicking off at 7.45 and you put coverage on at 7.35 and you’re off five minutes after full-time. It’s a token gesture.”
The last league game to be shown live was at the beginning of May and European games are not included in the FAI’s deal with RTÉ.
League sponsors Airtricity would have a natural preference for matches played under their umbrella to be screened.
The departure of Eir Sport from the scene has created a big gap as they used to take up the baton in the summer months.
Bradley reckons the deal that was signed by football authorities does not serve the game well – especially as it is quite inflexible in terms of schedule and generates no income.
“You sit down with any teams we play around Europe and talk to them and the money they get from local TV is incredible, incredible and we’re here .. and people say well, it’s the League of Ireland … but you tell me we’re not on a par with these countries,” he said.
“They (RTÉ) pick their games at the start of the year. That’s what we’ve accepted for years and I’m not having it.
“All league managers had Zooms with RTÉ. Again, the line that is thrown at you is (low) viewing figures, that’s the line that everyone likes to throw at you.
"Like I said it’s quite easy to understand the viewing figures when you’re not promoting it, there’s no package there, It’s very easy to throw that line out and that’s what we’ve been fed for years and, for me, it’s not right.”
Keith Long has challenged his Bohemians side to complete their European dream in Greece next week and deliver a "gigantic" performance to cap off a remarkable and history-making 2-1 win at home to PAOK at Lansdowne Road in the Europa Conference League.