The sports section of this morning’s Iltasanomat, a Finnish tabloid newspaper, leads with an article that examines why no Finnish television broadcaster has purchased the rights to show the national team’s away matches of the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
YLE, Finland’s national state broadcaster, have committed to showing all five of the team’s home matches, and one away match – Finland’s trip to Hungary in the final round of games on the 11th of October 2011. When purchasing the rights for the home games, they only have to negotiate with one seller, the Football Association of Finland. Simple enough. But when it comes to away matches, they must deal with agents representing each of the football associations of the countries Finland is going to be playing separately. So, in this case, that means five different agents to deal with. It would seem that some are more realistic than others when it comes to pricing.
“The desire to show the away matches is there, but the money isn’t”, said YLE’s Head of Programming, Atte Jääskeläinen. “Agents have different ideas of the value of the matches to us. In particular, central European agents do not understand that football might not hold as much significance in Finland”.
And there lies the crux of the problem. As a public broadcaster, funded by license fees, YLE cannot spend disproportionate amounts of money on football when it does not attract many viewers. The commercial broadcasters who could purchase the rights, such as MTV3 and Canal+, would not be able to raise enough advertising revenue to make it worthwhile.
The situation is anything but ideal. There is no way that football will ever attain a higher profile in Finland without the national team’s matches being broadcast. If the sport can attract more fans in the country, then it can get more youngsters playing it, and begin to produce a higher standard of player that will play for Finland in the future.
I dearly hope the situation can be resolved. I imagine the worst case scenario will be that YLE will broadcast the matches online, as they did with Finland’s recent friendly against Belgium, which is better than nothing, but a far cry from the high definition widescreen picture that could and should be broadcast. It would also make it very difficult for bars and pubs to screen the game, causing them to lose an opportunity to profit.
“The discussions are ongoing”, said YLE Sport’s Executive Producer, Jyrki Kemppainen. “We need to have a quick resolution. We can’t wait forever for the programme to come together.”
I’ll keep you posted.