Ecclestone could soon change the world

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 October, 1998, 12:00am

WITH another round of Euro 2000 qualifiers coming on Saturday week (October 10) there is no Monday Premier League match scheduled so we'll have to make do with just three televised games this week - the Saturday double-bill of Southampton v Man Utd and Coventry v Aston Villa, plus Liverpool v Chelsea on Sunday.

Consequently this is one of those in-between weeks where most of the matches on offer are taped or repeats from the Champions' League Matchday Two. With only two of those Premier games live plus the Chinese League clash this rates as the quietest week of the season so far for live action.

On previous occasions the prospect of wall-to-wall football has been a cause for concern but here we have a chance to sample life with a bare minimum of live games. If it comes to famine or excess the latter gets the vote.

In the absence of live games there are those hardy old perennials the magazine shows.

European Football Weekly and Futbol Mondial are the grand-daddies and still the best examples of this genre. But recent additions like the Asian Football Show and FIFA TV are watchable in their own way.

And the German league highlights show at the discreet hour of 8.55am on a Sunday on TVB Pearl is a little gem.

The Murdoch-United rumour mill has quietened down of late but who knows what machinations are going on backstage.

The Mick Hucknall-CNN axis seemed to have credibility. And if theirs was not the consortium reported to be acting through the American bank Salomon-Smith-Barney then there could be a third player in the wings.

On top of that was the strange story about Formula One motor racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone making a bid, too.

Ecclestone has since denied all rumours of a United bid. But then again he would wouldn't he.

Initially the element that gave him away was the absence of a media related partner in his camp. Surely you can't buy a football club these days unless you're a media magnate.

But not so fast. Bernie DOES have a TV link up his sleeve. Digital technology for FI.

After making a fortune marketing the television rights for Grand Prix racing all over the world, Ecclestone pioneered his own state-of-the-art digital television factory to shoot, record and deliver, to pay-per-view subscribers all the Grand Prixaction. Bearing in mind that Ecclestone has confessed to an interest in Media Partners' super league proposals it is probably a feasible scenario that Ecclestone envisages this technology next being used to create a similar set-up for football when the clubs, the promotional companies and the ruling body organise themselves into one professional commercial whole.

He's not after Man U at all, just all of European soccer.

On another track, starting yesterday, ESPN on Wharf have been using the Cantonese audio as their primary soundtrack.

That means the necessity for Nicam's bi-lingual option has doubled if you're an English-only speaker who likes football. Now as well as the Premier League and Serie A (Wharf Sports), the Dutch, Brazilian and US Major League (ESPN) will be delivered in Cantonese, too. And that's not to mention all the UEFA competitions, including Euro 2000 matches, that ESPN carries.