It’s hard to find positives in the rescheduling of S4C’s Welsh Premier League coverage, is the national broadcaster losing interest in the national league?
The controversial television rescheduling of the new Welsh Premier League season was officially confirmed last Friday, announced via the Sgorio website.
The 12-Welsh Premier League clubs have been aware of the revised scheduling for some time but S4C’s changes to Sgorio’s coverage prior to start of the 2014/15 season should be considered a significant blow to the league.
The long-running Monday night highlights show, which in recent years has provided coverage of every WPL game from the previous weekend and La Liga, has been completely scrapped. And as part of S4C’s repackaged sports coverage the weekly televised fixture has also been moved.
It is also believed, though unconfirmed, that there will no longer be televised WPL fixtures on Welsh rugby international weekends. These fixtures had been typically been switched to an earlier kick-off time or shown on a Sunday, but now live coverage on these weekends will be no more.
S4C’s decision comes as part of a brand new Sunday afternoon sports show ‘Clwb’, where the weekend’s live WPL game will now take place on a Sunday at a 1pm or 1:30pm kick-off. This will then be followed by live rugby following S4C’s recent announcement of a joint four-year deal to cover the Guinness Pro12 competition with BBC Wales.
In losing its Saturday afternoon slot, Sgorio will be well aware that their coverage will have lost considerable appeal. The 3:45pm kick-off gave Sgorio a unique slot where Welsh Premier League football was the only live televised match to appear anywhere on UK television on a Saturday afternoon. Coupled with its live in-screen rolling scores service, Sgorio was the ideal place to watch live football and keep abreast of all the goals and news from elsewhere whether from the comfort of your sofa or a bar.
The decision by S4C to change the live game to a Sunday will mean that this is now lost. The early Sunday afternoon rescheduling puts the WPL’s weekly TV game in direct competition with live Premier League football and as sure as day follows night, viewing figures will deteriorate because of this clash. No neutral sports fan is going to choose Welsh Premier football over the Premier League and no bars, pubs or clubs are going to show Sgorio, as they previously did on a Saturday afternoon, when they have live Premier League football to provide customers with.
More worryingly is how will S4C react, long-term, to an anticipated decline in Sgorio’s viewing figures? Would the channel renege on its decision to move its coverage to a Sunday or would they use the drop in viewers as grounds to scale back coverage of the WPL even further?
Sgorio and the Welsh Premier League must privately be incredibly disappointed and concerned.
PORT TALBOT SHOWING PROMISE
They say you should never read too much into pre-season results but on recent evidence Port Talbot Town’s new management duo Jarred Harvey and Craig Hughes can be quietly encouraged with what they have seen.
I’ve been present at their two most recent pre-season friendlies, in which they’ve chalked up wins against a youthful Newport County (2-0) and Briton Ferry Llansawel (6-3).
After a season to forget, a return to form for the Steelmen would give Welsh Premier League football in the south a much-needed boost and the early signs are promising.
Even though Harvey’s tenure at the GenQuip Stadium is still very much in its infancy, the side have fared well in their last two outings. Port Talbot look to have good shape and are being encouraged to play and get bodies forward.
The additions of Carl Evans and Liam McCreesh add, no pun intended, steel and grit to the team whilst the early indications are that tireless winger Keyon Reffell and classy youngster Kieran Lewis will add real quality to a midfield which lost Lewis Harling and David Brooks (both to Carmarthen) over the summer. Martin Rose is another who has impressed, showing real hunger up-front and seems to have already put last season’s lacklustre campaign behind him.
Harvey and Hughes will know that there is still work to be done – three soft goals against Welsh League Briton Ferry in a match which they all but dominated confirmed this, but the side appear to be well on-track as they prepare for their opening weekend double-header against Airbus UK and Prestatyn Town.