The 2020/21 season has been rubbish for supporters, locked out of grounds and forced to watch our teams play while stuck on our own sofas, largely without even the pubs for comfort.
Personally I detest watching games at home. There is nothing worse than being stuck watching on TV, missing out on everything about a matchday; meeting up with mates, paying a bit too much for a beer in a plastic glass, the anticipation before the game, the atmosphere once it gets going and chatting about it in the bar afterwards.
So it’s been a source of continual frustration that Premier Sports have shown a level of incompetence usually reserved for Welsh Rugby Union decision making and Pro14 refereeing in their broadcasting of the league over the last few weeks.
It started back in November when we went away to Edinburgh and the Premier Player, which I use to stream games in the absence of a television package on which I could watch Premier Sports, not having enough bandwith to host the amount of people trying to use it at that one moment.
Essentially, if Premier Sports are showing a Cardiff Blues game at the same time as either another Pro14 game, specifically one involving Ulster, or a Scottish football game, then the Premier Player cannot cope with the traffic and falls over, leading to supporters having to deal with a stream that either buffers or jumps back and forth constantly.
Then on Boxing Day a technical cock-up meant that the Cardiff Blues and Dragons game was showing as listed on both Premier Sports 1 and 2. Trying to watch Premier Sports 1 via the Premier Player showed as geo-blocked in Wales, for a Welsh derby, and Premier Sports 2 was showing Aston Villa v Crystal Palace in the Premier League which Premier Sports don’t have the rights to show in the UK.
Perhaps the worst aspect of it all though has been the contempt with which the broadcaster has treated customers, refusing to comment on the issues suffered during the Edinburgh broadcast and waiting until the 35th minute of the Dragons game to acknowledge there was a problem. It’s not hard just to put a message out saying it’s being worked on, or apologising for the issue.
The week after the Edinburgh game, when I was in an annoying Twitter mood and tweeting them every day there was even a moment where Antonia Lamont, formerly of Pro Rugby Wales for fans of the Welsh rugby civil war, spent her time tweeting all about Shane Williams’ playing accolades as a reason not to have a dig at his punditry.
Maybe less time trying to argue the nonsensical point that a good player automatically makes a good pundit, and more time engaging with customers as PR at Premier Sports? Just a thought.
It’s been clear for some time though that Premier Sports are winding down their coverage of the Pro14 though. The pandemic clearly hit them financially causing them to terminate their contract with Sunset+Vine to produce the live coverage of games, which has had a drastic impact on the quality of their output.
With the contract to broadcast the competition up this summer there is a requirement for the Pro14 as an organisation to ensure that the quality of the television coverage matches the supposed quality on the field. That is not possible when Premier Sports are producing the coverage in-house.
As a result any new contract needs to see them up their game, with the specific requirement to bring Sunset+Vine back on board, or the right for the Pro14 need to go elsewhere to a broadcaster who can cover the league properly.
At the moment it’s a laughing stock.