Like many people, I had managed to avoid paying to watch the football on the television for many years. During my twenties, Monday night was reserved for going to the pub for the live match on Sky Sports. In more recent times, I availed myself of many of the dodgy options on offer with a little looking on the internet, citing the failure of the Premier League to offer a decent legal option for people that would rather watch matches on a laptop than a television set. This justification was blown out of the water recently, however, when Setanta Sports started to offer a stripped down version of their television service by broadband.
Had it been Sky offering it, I would have still had moral considerations to take into account. I still, in my quaintly idealistic way, object to putting money into the pockets of Rupert Murdoch, and would have had to think long and hard before signing up to a Sky Sports subscription of any sort. Setanta, however, offer no such quibbles. I’m aware of the problems that people have over cancelling, but I worked in customer service for long enough to that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Besides, if the service turns out to be any good, I’ll stick with it and leave such concerns for another day. So, I register for it. I’m from the “I want it now” generation as much as anyone else, and I’m concerned that I may have to fiddle around with the laptop to make it work properly. No such concerns come my way, though. A quick update of my version of Adobe Flash Player, and we’re off.
What, then, have I got in store? Well, there’s the Premier League, obviously. The biggest single reason that I registered today was to watch Spurs play Manchester United. It’s not the greatest selection of Premier League matches, but that’s what you get if you bite the bullet and sign up with Sky. I’ll also be getting (deep breath) the rest of the FA Cup matches that ITV aren’t showing, SPL matches, England matches, World Cup qualifying matches, Blue Square Premier matches (along with the end of season play-off matches in the Blue Square North and Blue Square South), and matches from the Bundesliga, the Eredivisie (Netherlands) and Ligue One (France). It’s an alarmingly large amount of football. I will have to be careful not to gorge on it all.
So, the screen flickers to life and there’s Harry Redknapp giving his pre-match interview. Watching it all on a laptop means that even Setanta’s coverage is mercifully light on bombastics. For this evening’s match, the commentators are Jon Champion, a solid choice as the main commentator, and Craig Burley. The picture isn’t high definition, but it’s passable, and the match is an enjoyably high tempo affair in which Manchester United have the majority of the possession but Spurs look the more likely to score when they attack. It finishes, as you already know, goalless, but it has been a lively match and a pleasant enough way to pass a couple of hours. I have the opportunity, should I choose to catch up on the lunchtime SPL match between Dundee United and Rangers and the Ligue One match between Stade Rennais and Nantes, should I choose to avail myself, but I choose to pass on these (admittedly tempting) options.
Of course, not everything in the Setanta garden is completely rosy. I thought that I had a major gripe when the connection dropped with fifteen minutes left to play of the match, but it turned out that this was my ISP being a pain in the arse rather then Setanta. The picture quality isn’t great and my concerns over whether I will ever be able to cancel it remain but, for now at least, I have the strangely warming feeling that comes with the knowledge that finally I am watching legal, live streaming football on my laptop. It’s almost nine years late, but I may finally have entered the twenty-first century.