Pitch battle

It all started with a simple £10 admission to the back room of a pub in Ealing. That is what Setanta Sports founders Michael O’Rourke and Leonard Ryan charged punters to watch a satellite feed of Ireland playing Holland in Italia 90. The game finished 1-1, with O’Rourke and Ryan losing money on the deal. Pundits now value the company around the £600m mark; its ninth channel, Setanta Golf, is launched on January 8 and there is the appetising prospect of Premiership football next season.

Setanta has increasingly become the company to do business with in pay TV. Broadcasting in 24 countries, it has cannily taken advantage of the demand for British and Irish sports among expats in North America and Australia, while doing the same in reverse for US expats in Europe. Setanta’s position has been consolidated in Ireland and Scotland since it secured broadcast rights for the Scottish Premier League in 2004-2005. It shares rights for rugby union’s Celtic Magners League with BBC Wales and S4C. But in England? As one observer states, matter-of-factly, “Setanta has been an absolute mystery to most people.”

Read Iestyn George’s full article from Guardian Unlimited by clicking here.