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Sky’s the limit for publicans and sports fans

Sky’s the limit for publicans and sports fans

Anton McNulty

Enda Kenny may be the most popular man in Mayo after being elected Taoiseach, but Martin Finnegan reckons he came a close second when he came to Mayo installing satellite systems in pubs which show sporting events.
When the English Premier League was set up in England in the early ‘90s and live matches were shown exclusively on Sky Sports, publicans were quick to install Sky into their premises in order to show the matches. It was seen as a necessary investment with football supporters flocking to watch their favourite club in action. Very few pubs in the country are now without a satellite at the side of their premises.
However, in recent years publicans, especially in rural areas, having been feeling the pinch and are finding it difficult to justify paying the commercial rates for the Sky package but do not want to disappoint their patrons by not showing live matches. 
Television technician, Martin Finnegan believes he has the perfect compromise which guarantees live football for a fraction of the price they are currently paying. Through his company, Euroview, he installs satellite systems in pubs which pick up sports packages from Europe Satellite Service providers which he says will show all the major sporting events without having to pay Sky, and with added extras.
If you don’t mind watching games from European TV stations rather than English satellite channels, this could save you money. Martin believes this will become a common feature of Irish pubs in the future.
“Sky are not allowed to show 3pm kick-offs because the FA want people in England to go to matches and in Ireland Setanta only show one match. With our service we will be able to provide all the 3pm kick-offs through a foreign television service but the commentary will be in English. Another aspect of our service is that if you have four televisions in a pub you will be able to show four different events and have a choice of what you want to watch,” he told The Mayo News.
Martin is based in the midlands and explained that up to 25 pubs in Mayo have converted to his system, mainly because they can no longer afford to pay for the Sky packages. He explained that the service is 100 per cent legal under the Treaty of Rome which provides for the freedom of movement of goods, services and people, and any licences Sky have with the English FA to show matches do not apply to Ireland.
Martin added that he knows of publicans who have had difficulty leaving Sky because of the pressure put on them to renew their packages, but he feels publicans should keep their options open.
“I am based in the midlands and over the last number of years pubs have been hit hard. Some are only opening at night and can’t afford to show matches anymore. Sky dictate how much they charge for commercial packages and it is a rip off.”
His company operates all over Ireland and Martin said he has been inundated with calls from pubs to change the system. He said the system not only shows soccer matches but they can also provide other sporting events normally not available in Ireland. He said the system is ideal for supporters clubs who want to watch their club’s matches even if they are not live on any of the UK stations.
“There is a pub in Offaly not far from where I live that has a strong Celtic Supporters base and at this stage the lads are nearly fluent in Romanian. We are able to show Celtic matches from a Romanian package regardless of what time or day the match is on. There is another Spurs pub in Dublin which guarantees to show every Spurs game all year round. It provides more of an alternative for the ordinary sports fan.”

A Publican’s View
Publican, Andrew Jordan from Murray’s Bar in Charlestown cancelled his Sky subscription because of the costs involved and was going to do without sports until he installed the new system.
“I had Sky for years and was paying high prices and they were impossible to deal with. I was paying over €500 a month for Sky but now I am paying €179 a month with Martin’s system and I have more options. I have two televisions in the bar and I can watch one match on one and another on the other. People do come into the pub to watch a match at 3pm on a Saturday and have no problem with it.
Sport has become very expensive for publicans who can’t afford it but are afraid to cancel. If you do not have sport what do you do if there is a match on and people want to watch it? When I phoned Sky saying it couldn’t afford it and wanted to cancel they just said thats fine but the person did say ‘I paid €6 for a pint when I was in Ireland, you publicans can well afford it’. I had no problem cancelling my Sky but I know there are some publicans who are getting hassle.
A lot of other publicans have shown interest in the system and lately I had publicans from Swinford an Ballaghaderreen coming in and having a look.
I was going to cancel my subscription before I met Martin because there were not enough people watching sport to justify the cost. If there was box office boxing on, it could cost €190 a fight with only a few people interested in watching it.
I met Martin 18 months ago and since I installed the system more people are coming in to watch matches especially at 3pm on a Saturday. I am very happy with the service so far and if I have any problems I can ring Martin direct — if I had problems with Sky I would be put on hold.”