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RTÉ fighting for rights to televise Ireland's crucial Euro 2020 play-off

Ireland play Slovakia later this month and at this stage only people who subscribe to Sky will be able to see it.

Ireland lose out on automatic qualification to Denmark. They are now in a play-off.
Ireland lose out on automatic qualification to Denmark. They are now in a play-off.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND’S PLAY-OFF GAME against Slovakia is currently scheduled to be broadcast behind a pay-wall on Sky Sports rather than on free-to-air television.

However, RTÉ have been negotiating with Uefa since November, when the draw was made, to gain special rights to show the game. Industry sources have indicated they have made substantial progress and may get a positive decision from European football’s governing body by the end of this week – which would be a major boost to thousands of Irish fans who are not subscribers to Sky.

As things stand, though, the game will only be seen live on subscription channel, Sky. The reason for this is that the play-off semi-finals are technically Uefa Nations League matches rather than Uefa European qualifiers. And it is Sky Sports rather than RTÉ who have the rights to show Ireland’s Nations League and friendly internationals.

The Nations League was developed as a concept between 2013 and 2016 as an alternative to meaningless friendly internationals. It began in earnest in 2018, Ireland doing poorly in their outings in the competition, losing twice, drawing twice in League B.

Nonetheless they still were allowed another chance to qualify for the Euros via this new competition, one of four teams who made it into the League B play-offs, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Slovakia being the other sides competing for one spot in this summer’s Euros.

While the winner of the mini-tournament – Ireland play Slovakia in one semi-final, Northern Ireland face Bosnia in the other – goes to this summer’s European finals, the game remains officially a Nations League match.

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Hence, Sky have the rights to show it.

Nonetheless, RTÉ have made a big play to also be allowed broadcast the game live. They are aware that Uefa are keen to introduce a free-to-air element to these play-offs and have been negotiating with Uefa via the European Broadcasting Union to get the Slovakia match shown on RTÉ.

They have not signed any deal yet may well do so before the end of this week. If no deal is struck, then Ireland versus Slovakia will only be available to subscribers on the Sky Sports platform.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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