OPINION: When I first heard the news last week, I was gutted. English Premiership football was leaving Sky TV. Goodbye Stevie Gerrard. Goodbye Jose Mourinho. Goodbye Gareth Bale. Goodbye to lazy Sunday afternoons and Mondays off work watching the best footballers in the world playing my favourite sport in the world.
Gone. Gutted. Who had bought the rights was unclear at first, before hazy details emerged. Some sports website or something, right?
Ah hell, that will cost megabucks I thought. Despite being a bloke who absolutely loves English football, there was no way I could justify forking out a few hundy just to watch the likes of Liverpool, West Ham, Southampton and Manchester City do battle.
I've got Sky TV, sure, but there's no way I can throw more money on a luxury like a sporting website, I thought.
Yet again, the money men, those bastards who hold all the cards in this dollar-bill world, are taking something else special away from the little guys.
Again, gutted. But then, more details emerged. The website, premierleaguepass.com - owned by Coliseum Sports Media, would charge $150 for a season's worth of footy - plus there would be one delayed game on TVNZ every Sunday, and a highlights package every Monday night.
If you make good bucks in your job, that's fair enough money to throw at watching something you love.
It's a bit much for me to put on the table - but all power to those who have 150 clams floating about.
But here's the thing I love about Sky losing the English rights: one free delayed game a week, and a highlights package on Monday nights.
How great is that? Free football for the masses - like we used to get with ITV's The Big Match back in the 80s.
That's how my love of the game began, anyhow. I remember, as a young bloke on the Rangitaiki Plains, watching images of that great Liverpool team of the 80s playing and felt inspired.
I remember those silky moves of John Barnes on the Anfield turf and tried to emulate him in the backyard. I never got as far as the Liverpool winger in my football career - which ended in the Hamilton Wanderers Div 3 team - but these weekend games will again give people who haven't been able to justify Sky in the past, or this new website these days, a chance to sit down with their kids on Sundays and watching some top-drawer footy.
Ditto with the highlights package. It'll likely be on late on Mondays, but Dad can tape it for his keen young football playing kids. It's great news - a whole new generation of Kiwi kids getting a good taste of footy young.
As for Sky, well, they seem to have ballsed this one up - presumably left it late to make a play for the rights, using that "we're the only big dog in town" line, and losing out.
Chief executive John Fellet's lines about the A-League being more popular ring hollow, too.
Yeah, people watch the Wellington Phoenix live, but you can't compare those viewing numbers to those of the English games, which are at 3 o'bloody-clock in the morning. People watch replays of English games ad nauseum.
Those numbers will be sorely missed by Sky.
- © Fairfax NZ News