Man who stole the World limits our view of 2002 Mondiale

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 December, 1999, 12:00am

The news slipped out recently that the people's game has turned it's back on the people.

Or in other words, the right of most fans around the world to see World Cup matches free of charge was ended and almost slipped by unnoticed.

In Hong Kong, Wharf Cable wrapped up the rights for the 2002 tournament and the same scenario of subscriber-TV winning the rights, is being repeated around the world.

Whatever happened to FIFA's long-held principle of favouring free-to-air broadcasters so as to make it easy for the maximum number of fans to see the great competition? Gone by the wayside, it seems. Now FIFA can only guarantee that the opening match, semi-finals, third-place game and the final will be available to all.

The villain of the piece appears to be German media magnate Leo Kirch who bought the 2002 and 2006 rights for ?750m. He is the man selling on the rights worldwide and is no longer restricted by the pesky FIFA preference for free-to-air delivery (except for the five games specified).

With no Serie A games for a fortnight, CABLE Sport Channel 2 is not very busy football-wise.

Fortunately that allows them to double up their Premier League coverage on Sunday night (there are no games tomorrow) when they are showing Manchester United v Bradford, the same time as Newcastle v Liverpool on Sports Channel 1. The United-Bradford game is also repeated on Sports Channel 1.

It can't be very often that the fixture schedule throws up two matches involving the top four clubs but that could be the case this comingTuesday, as long as the Sunday matches do not alter the top four, Arsenal (fourth) host Leeds (first) in the earlier game. Then Manchester United (second) visit Sunderland (third) in the late one.

On Wednesday night, Chelsea try to plug the holes in their sinking ship when they take on Sheffield Wednesday.

The occasional showing of League Cup games continues tomorrow with the Birmingham v West Ham match. Bearing in mind the controversy that has followed subsequent games in this competition this one will be watched with a lot of hindsight but, in case you don't know (or can't remember) the details, it is definitely a match worth watching.

With soccer programming thinning out a bit over the holiday period STAR are prepeating some of the better recent games, such as from Copa America tournament, the Asian Super Cup and the Copa Mercosur.