First the good news. CABLE Sports have secured the live rights to the Scotland v England Euro 2000 play-off matches on November 13 and 18. They will also have four other Euro play-off matches live including the Ireland v Turkey first leg. But that news was relative small-fry compared to the piece of business that the station announced last week - namely, that it will have the exclusive Hong Kong rights to live coverage of the 2002 World Cup. The price paid remains a commercial secret but it was 'substantial and in the multi-millions', says Musetta Wu, who is responsible for buying the channel's sports programmes. In previous years terrestrial channels TVB and ATV have had the World Cup rights as members of the Asian Broadcasting Union. However, the ABU's exclusive deal ended after the last World Cup. It was not just a case of offering more money insisted Wu this week. 'We convinced ISL and FIFA of our proficiency in being able to make the 2002 World Cup a success in terms of transmission and technology,' she said. 'We can cover the World Cup from different angles. 'We can devote more than one channel to the tournament. We have the personnel who can give our coverage an edge. Our commitment to soccer coverage is clear from our Premier League and Serie A programming. We believe FIFA saw that we could deliver the World Cup in the most high quality way.' The fact that CABLE is now potentially available to 90 per cent of Hong Kong's population - with 100 per cent potential likely by summer of 2002 - was also persuasive. However there are two causes for concern. First, even if every home in the SAR has 'potential' CABLE connection, will all building managers and ownership committees avail themselves of that potential? And secondly, whatever happened to the principle of FIFA wanting as many fans as possible to see the World Cup free of charge? On the Champions' League front, last week I griped about ESPN's scheduled Matchday Six coverage, saying they should have opted for games with some impact on qualification. As it happened technical difficulties prevented them showing Fiorentina v Barcelona. But what match did they switch to? Manchester United (already qualified) v Sturm Graz (already out). There was little significance unles you wanted to see if United would win the group. It just adds fuel to the conspiracy theory that United have to be on every week. And, ironically, the Fiorentina v Barca match turned out to be a highly entertaining 3-3- draw after all that.