Game over for Setanta?

Chris Forrester


The financial struggle may be all over at sports pay-TV operator Setanta. On Friday June 19 it failed to meet a £10m stage payment due to the English Premier League, and thus sealed its own fate as far as its soccer rights were concerned.

The Premiership immediately carried out its own threat to re-advertise the games that Setanta was due to cover this coming season. "The Premier League has been working with Setanta for some time to help it continue as the broadcaster of 46 UK live games for the 2009-10 Season. The Premier League, in agreement with Setanta, stipulated that certain contractual requirements had to be met on or before Friday, June 19, 2009, to allow preparations for the 2009-10 season to continue unaffected.

"It is with considerable regret that we announce that Setanta has been unable to meet their obligations. As such the existing licence agreement between us has been terminated. We will now go ahead and market the 46 UK live matches for the 2009-10 season." As yet there's no news on potential bidders, although BSkyB could bid for half the games, and broadcasters like ESPN could take the whole 46-game package.

One commentator on Sunday referred to the ‘life support machine' that Setanta has been on for the past month. It now seems inevitable that the machine will be switched off. One potential saviour, Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, pulled out when his financial team discovered a £50m unpaid VAT bill. Indeed, if this story is correct then Setanta's directors might find themselves in the High Court for knowingly "trading while insolvent". Certainly Her Majesties Customs & Excise men don't take too kindly to deliberately ignoring VAT bills. An Access Industries spokesman said: "Regrettably, there remain a number of issues we have been unable to resolve."