What do you do when you live in Australia and you can’t watch Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with Sweden? You buy the rights for the game yourself. David Feeney has delved into his own savings to show the crucial clash to Ireland’s ex-pat community Down Under.
Channel 33 was set up by Dubliner Feeney after he grew increasingly frustrated with constantly missing matches. Following a long conversation with his wife, David decided to plump for the rights to September’s must-win game against Sweden as he told Dave O’Grady on the YBIG Football Show podcast. It’s well known the extraordinary lengths Irish fans go to to follow the Boys in Green but this one takes some beating.
“It’s a funny one. I’m over here 15 years, and only get to see a game every now again, maybe when the bigger games are on. For the Austria game, I was listening to it on internet radio, thinking to myself, ‘It’s 2013, how am I not watching this live?’ Seeing Alaba’s goal in the last minute, I kind of kicked the cat, and thought ‘Right, that’s it.’ I was annoyed with the goal going in, and I said I’m going to buy the rights. I’m going to find out how you do this.”
“So I spoke to a fella who I knew in school who now works for RTE. He was great and pointed me in the right direction of the company that owns the rights, over in Germany. And I just started having a chat with them from there”
“There are a couple of channels here that might show the games and they usually wait until the last minute and buy the rights at the death. But for this one, I’d looked up what they were going to show and one of them was screening Serbia-Croatia followed by England-Moldova on delay and the other wasn’t going to show anything.”
“So I approached the guys who had the rights and I basically said ‘Look, no one else is going to show this.’ I made them an offer, relatively low, having no idea how much rights would cost and they came back and said ‘Yea ok’. I was like ‘Alright, I have the rights now, what am I going to do with them?'”
So how did the conversation with his wife go?
“Thankfully she’s Irish as well, from Dublin as well, so we’re over here together. So when I explained it to her first she said ‘Sorry is this sport betting, are we doing sports betting? What is this?’
I said, “No look, I’ve got a bit of money saved up, it’s pretty expensive but look we’ll have a go and give it a try.”
She replied ‘You can do it once, but whatever money you make, I’m having it.’ So that’s the deal.”
Promoting and advertising the game now must be a huge challenge?
“Absolutely, I have a real job and this has consumed my entire life, trying to find advertisers but the Irish Echo, the local community newspaper here in Australia has come on board. They’ve been really good. They’re a presenting partner and are helping to promote it and I’m negotiating with an alcohol company but the time is pressing on”
“The game is on at 4:45 in morning so finding a venue is hardest thing to do. We’ve got a few now. The casino in Sydney, the casino in Brisbane, in Darwin – there’s a huge Irish population there – the casino in Adelaide, the famous Scruffy Murphys pub in Sydney, and the Celtic Club in Melbourne.
“I thought about streaming it. There were a couple of options but what I thought is; we’re all over here, we’re all missing home, sitting in your front room with the laptop out at 4:45 in the morning watching the game. It doesn’t really give you the experience of seeing the game at home and maybe you miss home a bit more probably. I wish I could be watching this with my mates.”
“I decided to put it on in venues as it gives people the opportunity to go out, to transport themselves back home temporarily, without going through the 30 hour round trip. You can feel like you’re at home for two hours, you can be on twitter, texting your mates that you’re watching the game in the pub just like they are. That was the thing that it thought would appeal to Irish people the most”
It’s a huge match for Ireland and it will take a feat we’ve not achieved since the defeat of Holland in 2001- beating a higher-ranked team at home – to give us any chance of reaching next year’s World Cup. David could be playing a part in something very special should the result go Ireland’s way.
“Actually I watched the Dutch game over here, in a place called King’s Cross which is one of the seedier parts of Sydney It was the same story, 500 Irish people in a room, someone had bought the rights, and gotten in some satellite dishes. It’s one of the greatest sporting memories of my life, the sending off and the Jason McAteer goal. It was an absolutely unbelievable experience that anyone who was there will always remember. When you meet someone you can talk about it so we’re hoping to create something similar.”
Compared to GAA games and even the rugby matches, it’s the Boys in Green that really brings the Irish together, according to David.
“The football team is the one everyone supports. Everyone has memories, maybe not great memories of the Euros recently, but if you’re as old as me, great memories of Euro 88, things like that. It’s the team that everyone can get behind. I’m hoping that exactly for that reason, people get behind it, see the team win and recreate the Olé Olé memories of the past.”
“One of the aims was to get Ireland games on telly so I’ve sort of kicked it back off with the Sweden game and now other broadcasters have picked it back up for the Germany game and the Austria game but that’s fine. My reason to do it was to watch the games, that I personally could see the games so it’s been an expensive exercise just to make sure I can watch Ireland matches on TV.”
“As I said to someone the other day I’m not trying to pay off my mortgage . I’ll probably lose money on it. If I break even, I’ll be delighted. I’ll get to see the game and people will get to see the game as well. I’m not trying to start some TV empire here. Get the game on, give people a chance to see it and try not to lose too much money.”
“The win is crucial, then we can push on, get ourselves into the play-offs and on a plane to Rio.”