Irish broadcaster Setanta Sports is staring administration in the face after suffering fresh setbacks yesterday.
The Premier League have awarded all of the live matches formerly held by Setanta to the Disney-owned broadcaster ESPN.
And the Scottish Premier League announced at Hampden that they were “actively engaging in the process of selling their domestic broadcasting rights” after the broadcasters failed at the third time of asking to make their outstanding payment of £3million.
Locally, the draw for the Setanta Sports Cup — which was scheduled to be made in Dublin on Thursday — has been postponed.
ESPN have not only been awarded the two packages of 46 live games for next season, but in a surprise move by the Premier League they have also won Setanta's package of 23 matches per season for the 2010-13 period.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: “The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a UK rights holder. They have a formidable worldwide reputation and experience in sports and I am sure we will enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with them.”
SPL executive chairman Lex Gold pulled the plug on Setanta yesterday, then declared himself confident of delivering an equally lucrative broadcasting deal for the league's member clubs.
He said: “Setanta has been unable to meet our extended deadline for the outstanding £3 million payment to the SPL and, in terms of the notice previously issued, our British broadcasting rights for season 2009/10 and beyond revert to us.
“We are now actively engaging in the process of selling our domestic broadcasting rights for next season and beyond. But I don't accept that we will have to take a reduced fee.
“We have a product that is valuable in the market place.”
Meanwhile, Linfield, Glentoran, Coleraine, Cliftonville and Derry City are waiting to hear if the Setanta Sports Cup will kick-off in August.
A statement issued by the Irish FA yesterday read: “The Irish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland today (June 22) agreed with Setanta Sports to postpone the draw of the 2009 Setanta Sports Cup, scheduled to take place on Thursday June 25.
“This draw has been postponed at the request of Setanta Sports to give the company an opportunity to gain clarity around a number of market related issues it currently faces.
“In the interim, a meeting has been arranged with participating clubs in Dublin on the afternoon of June 25.”
IFA president Raymond Kennedy admitted the outlook for the competition could be bleak.
“We are left in a wait and see scenario,” he admitted.
“We were hopeful that Setanta Ireland would survive but if they were an asset, that could be used to pay off something.
“There is still uncertainty around, but we have been remaining positive. It is a situation which we will keep monitoring but the Irish FA do not derive any money from Setanta as the host clubs sell those rights.”