THE enterprise of two Irish men who famously bought the rights to broadcast a Republic of Ireland World Cup soccer match in Britain, has been followed by a frustrated Irish fan living in Australia.
Nearly 23 years later, David Feeney has taken a leaf out of the book of Setanta Sports founders Leonard Ryan and Michael O’Rourke after negotiating a deal to buy the rights to tonight’s Ireland versus Sweden World Cup qualifier.
In almost a carbon copy of the situation Ryan and O’Rourke found themselves in, in London during the World Cup in Italy, Feeney channelled the frustration he felt at not being able to see Giovanni Trapattoni’s Boys in Green take another possible step towards qualifying for Brazil, into a potentially lucrative business deal.
A lifelong supporter, Feeney agreed with his wife to extend their mortgage before approaching a German television rights company that held the overseas rights to beam the match into local venues.
Feeney contacted the company to strike a deal only to be told his offer was too low before the company accepted his second offer — an unrevealed sum.
In 1990, Ryan and O’Rourke made a similar approach to British networks who were committed to showing the England versus Egypt Group match, which clashed with Ireland’s fixture.
After winning the rights, the men beamed the game into the Top Hat Club in Ealing which was a well-known Irish venue at the time, charging an admission of £10.
An estimated 1,000 people turned up and that business deal famously grew into Setanta Sports. But nor is the enterprising Feeney stopping at one game — just for good measure, he has organised to show England’s match against Ukraine on September 10.
“Both our names are on the mortgage, and when I told her about the idea, I don’t think she was too crazy about it,” Feeney said about discussing the idea with his wife, “But if it works out, I’m hoping we can do more in the future.
“I want to make sure everything goes OK, the signal goes out to the right places and for sure, I’ll probably be nervous.”