Back in the mid-1990’s, I either associated the name Setanta with some a-ok Edwyn Collins records or nursing Saturday AM hangovers watching Premiership matches on satellite at Nevada Smith’s on 3rd Avenue in lower Manhattan. Over the following decade and a half, the company responsible for the latter has transformed soccer viewing habits in both North American and Great Britain for better or worse. On Monday, the following Guardian report from Ewan Murray might well be the worst news to hit the football biz since the On Digital debacle.
Fears intensified for the future of Setanta last night as it emerged it has defaulted on a payment to the Scottish Premier League. Sources north of the border have confirmed a routine payment to SPL clubs, thought to total about £3m, did not arrive as scheduled yesterday.
Neither the broadcaster nor the SPL would comment on the matter but it raises serious questions over the viability of Setanta’s commitment to Scottish football and the other parts of its rights portfolio. Following a meeting in London, one source has revealed an email was sent to staff in Glasgow confirming the payment had not been made and that no comment was to be given under any circumstances to the media.
Setanta has been thrown into turmoil following its failure to retain half of the 46 English Premier League games it will screen live until the end of next season. From 2010-11 it will show only 23 English top-flight matches a season. It has recently made payments as scheduled to the Football Association, with whom it has a deal for FA Cup and England matches, but is actively fresh seeking investment.
A meeting between SPL clubs and Setanta early last month sought to secure a way forward as the broadcaster sought to renegotiate the terms of its wide-ranging sports coverage. The options suggested at that time were understood to be a cut of as much as £30m from the extended contract or a shortening of the deal by two years. No formal agreement has been reached, however, with news of the missed payment sure to prompt concern over whether Setanta can service the SPL at all.