(Photo credit: REUTERS/Miguel Vidal)
Spanish football may no longer be broadcast on TV in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland following Thursday’s announcement of the Eleven Sports Network winning exclusive rights to La Liga matches from Sky Sports.
Eleven Sports, founded by the Leeds United owner, Andrea Radrizzani, has outbid Sky for the exclusive rights to the Spanish top flight for three years, starting from 2018-19.
The news is historic as it ends coverage which has been shown by Sky over the course of the last two decades.
How you will be able to watch matches remains unclear, with indications that the new company – who do not have a TV channel in the UK – may set up a specialised channel for the games which could be subbed out to either Sky or BT.
Eleven Sports, who show Spanish football in both Belgium and Poland, may however choose to go down the route of broadcasting programmes online.
Sky were reportedly unwilling to continue with their £18 million-per-season contract with La Liga to bring an end to the relationship.
The setup brought about many new fans of Spanish football based in the UK and Ireland, with the hugely-popular Revista de La Liga programme – a round-up show offering analysis and highlights from all the games – often cited as the high point of the output.
“We are proud to build on our existing relationship with La Liga, this time in the UK, one of the most passionate football countries in the world where Spanish football has significant appeal,” said Eleven Sports executive chairman Marc Watson.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for our young and dynamic company and we will announce soon how we will introduce innovative ways for dedicated fans to watch and engage in live action.
“The way people, especially young people, watch live sport is changing and we will always try to reflect that in the way we make our products available.”
La Liga president Javier Tebas added: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Eleven Sports Network in the UK and Ireland.
“We have worked very hard to promote the excellence of La Liga in the UK and Ireland and we are confident that Eleven Sports will help us to grow and innovate our brand in the market for years to come.”
The end of an era
Sky’s coverage has largely been excellent yet many feel it has declined over the years.
The scrapping and then half-hearted comeback for Revista frustrated many fans and that was part of a wide cutback of analysis and coverage. Coverage of matches begin less than five minutes ahead of kick-off and conclude shortly after the full-time whistle.
Sky’s decision has been to cut back on its investment in the game in Europe to focus on showing more – extremely costly – Premier League games.
One chapter is drawing to a close yet another exciting, if hugely uncertain one, is beginning. Indications in the tone of the announcements – ‘innovative ways for dedicated fans to watch and engage in live actions’ – suggests an online presence.
The future of sports broadcasting appear to be shifting away from the traditional forms of media (TV, radio) and more heavily focused online.
There are even suggestions that social networking sites and streaming companies like Netflix may pounce for future rights packages.
This feels like a landmark moment in sports broadcasting but the memories of two decades of live Spanish football coverage on Sky will remain forever.
What do you think about Sky's loss of the La Liga television rights? Let us know by commenting below.