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'We had meetings with RTÉ at the start of the year and you are wasting your time'

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley joins Bohs rival Keith Long in venting anger at national broadcaster’s lack of coverage.

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley interviewed by RTÉ.
Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley interviewed by RTÉ.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Aug 5th 2021, 3:05 PM

STEPHEN BRADLEY HAS explained his anger and exasperation at what he has described as a lack of respect and interest from RTÉ towards helping the League of Ireland develop a wider audience.

The Shamrock Rovers head coach revealed how he and other club managers around the country held Zoom meetings with officials from the national broadcaster before the start of this season, who cited the lack of viewing figures as the reason for not showing more live Premier Division fixtures.

Despite the FAI trumpeting a new broadcast deal with RTÉ back in February – one which is linked to the rights for senior Republic of Ireland games – the last domestic fixture to be shown was on May 7.

Three months later and, as of yet, no further games have been scheduled for RTÉ TV, with Bohemians’ exploits in the Europa Conference League qualifiers earlier this week putting the spotlight on the national broadcaster’s blackout of coverage during a summer dominated by Euro 2020 and the Olympics.

None of the Euro games to date, involving Sligo Rovers, Dundalk, Bohemains or Rovers, have been on television, and it has also emerged that Bohs suggested foregoing their own domestic stream revenue from their three qualifying games at Aviva Stadium, offering RTÉ the rights for free in order to gain maximum exposure.

“It doesn’t surprise me. We had meetings with RTÉ at the start of the year and you are wasting your time,” Bradley fumed, ahead of his side’s Europa Conference League third round tie against Albanian side Tueta tonight.

I think we have to look outside and start forgetting about the TV companies here who refuse to show the games. The streaming has been really good. I know people say ‘numbers’, but I think that’s nonsense as you have to give it time and build the product over years and let’s see where we can take it.

“Maybe we can get interest from outside this country because what we have right now doesn’t respect the quality and the work that goes in. And that is plain for all to see. It has been like that for years.

“It will continue to be that way as long as they are the ones we’re running to. We’ll continue to get what we’re getting . I think we need to completely break away from it and go our own way. It might hurt us for a couple of years, but that’s fine. Let’s build the streaming.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to RTÉ establishing the WatchLOI streaming service in partnership with clubs in order to ease some of the financial pain from supporters being unable to attend stadiums.

“Like I said, I don’t buy into the numbers on the stream. I understand they are low, but we have to build it over a period of time. Let’s build the product and make the package really appealing.

“All league managers had Zooms with RTE and stuff like that. Again, the line that is thrown at you is viewing figures, that’s the line that everyone likes to throw at you.

roberto-lopes-celebrates-scoring-a-goal-with-lee-grace Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Like I said it’s quite easy to understand the viewing figures when you’re not promoting it, there’s no package there, it’s literally five minutes before the game, five minutes after the game. Zero promotion. It’s very easy to throw that line out and that’s what we’ve been fed for years and, for me, it’s not right.

“We can’t keep going with cap in hand to these people and beg them to show talented footballers playing at a really high level and producing. We can’t keep doing that. This league has proven over the years, the players coming out of it. I believe now it’s at one of the strongest periods it’s been in in terms of the quality of young players throughout the league.”

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Bradley’s counterpart at Bohs, Keith Long, admitted his own frustration at RTÉ turning a blind eye to the domestic scene, pointing out after his side’s historic 2-1 win over PAOK that the national broadcaster doesn’t get behind the game like they do GAA or rugby.

“I understand Olympics takes everything now and rightly so. It’s not just this year, let’s not kid ourselves,” Bradley continued.

It’s the last however long I’ve been around the league. It’s a token gesture when the game is shown and it’s wrong. It’s nonsense, a nonsense for me. I don’t agree with it. They say we show 10 games so we accept that, it’s not good enough. We’ve done it for years. You sit down with any teams we play around Europe and talk to them and the money they get from local TV is incredible, incredible, and we’re here.

“And people say well, ‘it’s the League of Ireland’…but you tell me we’re not on a par with these countries. It’s nonsense. The standard of player. No, I’m not having it. They pick their games at the start of the year. That’s what we’ve accepted for years and I’m not having it.

“We need to build our products. It might take us somewhere in three, four, five years’ time. The Olympics, I get this year, but this has been going on for years, it’s not just this year.”

First published today at 06.00

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