The UEFA Nations League returned last night and will continue over the coming days. For those unfamiliar with the tournament, the competition has been created by UEFA to reduce the number of friendly internationals teams play, and offers an opportunity to qualify for Euro 2020. Unfortunately for the Republic of Ireland we have had little to cheer. Things could change on Monday night when the country travels to Denmark, and a win would lift team moral going into the UEFA European Qualifiers.
The game on Monday night (and those in the Nations League that have preceded it) has one oddity when compared to other Irish international games. It is a competitive fixture that is not available on free-to-air television. The reason this is unusual is down to European Commission rules and the Irish Statute Book.
At present, EU Member States can designate sporting and cultural events as being of major importance to society. Any events so designated should be available on a free-to-air television service.The Irish Statute Book (2016) currently says "All events deemed to be “of major importance to society for which the right of a qualifying broadcaster to provide coverage on a live basis on free television services should be provided in the public interest”. This list includes, amongst other things,Ireland’s home and away qualifying games in the European Football Championship and the FIFA World Cup Tournaments, and Ireland games in the European Football Championship Finals and FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament.
Effectively, this means all competitive games involving the team must be shown on free-to-air television in the "public interest".
The Nations League has recently joined the list of UEFA competitions. I wonder if this competition will be added to the Statute Book when reviewed by the Former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Last year the Minister added the "All-Ireland Senior Ladies Gaelic Football and Camogie Finals to the Free to Air designation list with full backing from the Cabinet and the European Commission".
It would seem to make sense for Nations League games to join the list.