• Michael McColl

      Editor

      Michael McColl started "Away From The Numbers" as a printed fanzine in 1989 for his Scottish club East Fife. It became a website in 2003 and added a general football blog in 2009. The focus has always been to mix serious articles with off-beat humour pieces. The Canadian arm of AFTN began in 2009 and is primarily focused on Vancouver Whitecaps.


      Currently a weekly columnist for Metro News Vancouver, Michael has also written for many UK publications including When Saturday Comes, Four Four Two and The Independent.


    • Steve Pandher

      Assistant Editor

      Steve has been a soccer fan since the early days of the 86ers at Swangard Stadium. He started The Whitecaps Beat blog on the instistence of his wife, as she was tired of listening to his ramblings about the club. When he plays, his two positions are goalkeeper and striker, mostly because of the lack of running involved. In addition to the Whitecaps, Steve also updates the play of Canadian players abroad with the @TrueNorthSoccer twitter account.

    • Jay Duke

      Writer

      Growing up as a casual soccer fan, Jay became a fervent supporter after a move to Vancouver and a rise in profile of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Since then, his summer road trips revolve around Cascadia Derbies, and friends weddings are only to be attended if they do not conflict with a Whitecaps match.

      Jay attempts to share his thoughts from the emotional view of a supporter rather than by advanced analytics or number crunching.

    • Aaron Campbell

      Writer

      Aaron Campbell is our new face to the soccer blog scene. He started following the Whitecaps seriously when they joined the MLS and has been hooked ever since. Not afraid to speak his mind and prove he is right in his opinions backing them up with the stats of the game.

      Yeah right. The only reason he goes to games is to get away from his small army of kids that he has populated the Fraser Valley with. One day the kids and wife will catch on!!!

      Supporter of Whitecaps FC and FC Barcelona.
      Follow on twitter @AaCamp81

    • The Unbearable Shiteness of beIN

      The author Neil Gaiman was in Vancouver last week. Amongst the many books he has written, he has also penned a couple of episodes of Doctor Who. One of the questions asked to him was did he plan to write any more episodes. He said heíd love to, if only the producers of the show could pay him in time and not money.

      I feel like that about watching football right now. Thereís just not enough hours in the day it seems to take in all the live games and highlights Iím wanting to watch, never mind all the other stuff between games.

      I need more time.

      But yet I also want more football on my television screen. The English Football League to be exact. Standing in my way, and the way of many other fans, is beIN SPORT.

      And itís not just supporters of the English Football League that are getting more and more angry by the situation. Fans of La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, for whom beIN also hold the English speaking broadcasting rights, are also up in arms, and the first two sets of supporters are by far the most vocal and greater in number.

      For those that donít know, beIN Sport is a network of sports channels that is affiliated to Al Jazeera and they have become a big player in the television rights to football worldwide since 2011. They are already established in the US, France and Indonesia. They hope to be in more countries, including here in Canada, but for now they are not, despite buying up the television rights for many different football leagues, cups, tournaments and other sports.

      For a television company that hopes to attract viewers if they ever do launch in Canada, they are doing a very good job at pissing off their potential customers to an extent where many wonít give them a penny out of principle.

      Trying to get answers out of beIN SPORT is like trying to get a song from a mime and like mimes, they are simply annoying everyone.

      We sent them emails on July 23rd and August 6th and have still to get a response. Search for them on Twitter and you will see a constant stream of people asking them whatís happening with the channel or their rights in Canada, all without any reply.

      They have previously replied in the past saying that they are working on the issue and address it briefly on the FAQ section of their website:

      "beIN SPORT is currently negotiating agreements to offer its network in the Canadian market. Please contact your cable TV, telco or satellite provider and let them know you want the beIN SPORT networks in Canada today."

      Such pressure seldom works. Iíve asked Telus for several things over the years, with no results. Gol TV broadcast in HD and SportsnetWorld Plus being available online being two of them.

      Some of the online speculation and finger pointing has been at the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that is responsible for the regulatory agency for broadcasting and telecommunications.

      But are they responsible? Have they been turning down beINís applications to operate here?

      A quick search of the CRTC website shows no mention of BeIN Sport/Al Jazeera being rejected for a sports channel in Canada. Very strange, so the only way to find out was to ask the CRTC themselves for some clarification.

      The reply we got from Media Relations Officer Guillaume Castonguay was fascinating and put a whole new spin on the proceedings:

      "We are not aware of any contacts between the CRTC and BeIN Sport.

      "It does not appear that they have filed an application to launch a Canadian channel, nor that a distributor has applied to add their channel to the list of non-Canadian programming services authorized for distribution."


      The latter is another way for beIN to break in. Canadian television providers can add beIN SPORT to their channel packages but under CRTC rules "Providers of these foreign services must not hold, nor try to obtain, nor exercise, preferential or exclusive programming rights in relation to the distribution of programming in Canada", which by my reading would make it impossible for their US station to be show here unless as Canadian channel also gets to show some of the action.

      So no applications kind of puts a stop to any idea that they are about to launch themselves here in the immediate future and it will be a long process if/when they finally do apply or get someone wanting to add them to their package of services, so donít go holding your breath to subscribe. Or watching the games you want to watch on your TV here.

      They could of course take over another existing channel and in the early days there were a lot of rumours online about the possibility of them acquiring a station such as EuroWorld Sport. We asked the CRTC about these rumours but they "are also not aware of any application to acquire EuroWorld Sport."

      So where does this leave us?

      Well, with a television channel that has the rights to broadcast various football leagues in Canada, but without the medium for doing so and without any signs that this situation is going to change any time soon.

      None of which is good for the fans of the teams that play in the leagues and all the other potential viewers at home.

      Such a situation is also detrimental to the leagues themselves. They may have the money in the bank, but surely the whole point of selling media rights it to grow their product, help their clubs and actually let people see the football on offer by legal means.

      The affected leagues canít be happy you would think, but after speaking to the English Football League, the impression you get is that they arenít all that concerned, or at least not publically.

      We reached out to the Football League to see how they felt about the farce, to alert them to the situation if they were unaware, ask whether they knew beIN didnít have a Canadian channel when they sold them the rights and how they felt about fans having to turn to illegal internet streams and downloads to watch their action.

      After a couple of email exchanges with Public Affairs Executive Peter Hannon, my questions were passed to the Head of Media Rights. It was a bit of a wait but we finally got the response below from a 'Football League spokesperson':

      "The Football Leagueís international broadcast rights are distributed exclusively outside of the UK by Pitch International, a rights agency. Currently the Sky Bet Football League and Capital One Cup matches are broadcast in over 170 countries across the globe.

      "In the USA and Canada, Pitch International have sublicensed the rights to beIN Sport, who also broadcast the Football League in France, and in the Middle East through Al Jazeera Sports. Whilst they currently have no presence to broadcast matches in Canada, this partnership has four years remaining and they hope to be in a position to show live Football League games in Canada at the earliest possible opportunity."


      Not exactly very helpful towards a satisfactory resolution to the main problem, this response was before the reply from the CRTC, so we have now passed on their response to the Football League and we'll see if they want to react further.

      Of course, they already have their money, from this deal and others, so why should they care if anybody in Canada can actually watch their product? We're being facetious, hopefully, but maybe they will put pressure on beIN to find a solution very quickly and avoid any more bad publicity or accusations about not caring about their teams' supporters.

      When fans are unable to see their teams play on their television screens, the natural alternative is to seek other means to watch them and a number turn to dodgy internet streams of matches and download sites, something you would think the football leagues would be doing everything to avoid happening.

      You donít have to try very hard to find live streams of English, La Liga and Serie A games online. There are also a number of download sites that let you download matches whilst the pea in refereeís full time whistle is still warm.

      Those with a bit of tech savvy can use proxy sites that allow access to the BBC iPlayer where you can watch the highlights programme The Football League Show every week, live or on demand.

      Hardcore fans will find a way, but this isnít just about them and the inconvenience they are put to. The casual fan canít watch these teams or the leagues and thatís one of the main points of securing a television deal surely. How can you grow your product and attract new fans if people canít see it or find out about it?

      The new English Premiership season will be starting on Saturday. I wonder how many people in Canada know anything about the players of Cardiff, Hull or Crystal Palace since they couldn't watch their games last season.

      The various football leagues have clearly not lost out too much with this farce. After all they have pocketed the money and you could argue that pissed off Canadian supporters arenít exactly at the top of their lists for keeping the paying public sweet. Many here want to see their team and will support that team no matter how theyíve been messed around by the authorities. Itís instilled. It doesn't make it acceptable.

      Canadian broadcasting laws are strict regarding new stations and owners. It was either very naÔve or very presumptuous of Al Jazeera/beIN to expect to just walk into the marketplace, if that was indeed the case. Surely proper due diligence should have alerted them to such potential problems, or did they not really care as long as they got into the US?

      Now they may have got the runaround from people, or had promises broken, we donít know of course because beIN wonít talk to us about it. Itís hard to have any sympathy for a company that wonít communicate with their potential customers. Itís also hard to have sympathy for them when they wonít sublease the rights or launch an online channel. Maybe they are not allowed to, but again we donít know and they won't tell us.

      Gol TV have made it very clear that they are interested in re-obtaining the rights to La Liga.

      If beIN SPORT ever launches in Canada, they need to do a lot of groveling to get their potential customers back on their side and nothing but a sweet launch pricing deal will be acceptable. For many, myself included, theyíve burned too many bridges and personally it will take a lot for me to give them a penny of my money now.

      Even those in the US have trouble watching the channel and it's not available in all areas and those areas that can receive it, sometimes can't get all of the channels they offer.

      So after weeks of working on this, weíre no further forward and if anything, the CRTC reply has diminished the faint hope we had of seeing these leagues on our television screens any time soon.

      The most damaged casualty in all of this is beIN SPORT's reputation. The most disappointing aspect is that the football authorities don't seem to care. But, as is usually the case, the most inconvenienced and the ones to suffer the most, are the fans.

      Comments 31 Comments
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Great article, Michael. It show that there are more ways to express outrage than through aimless ranting.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Always vote with your wallet. beIN won't get a dime from me.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        when beIN comes i'll pay them even if i dont buy the channel, gotta support the right!!
      1. Chris Deal's Avatar
        Chris Deal -
        Great article Michael, and as someone who primarily watches Championship footy, I can't wait until we can get it back on the telly here
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Even in the US, they give the Championship the short end of the stick. Last winter, with the leagues they cover on the continent on break, they had plenty of Championship games that could have been shown. They didn't show a single one - keeping a producer around the Miami studios wasn't worth the effort apparently, so we were treated to Real Madrid and Barcelona repeats, mostly.
      1. Saber1989's Avatar
        Saber1989 -
        Just stream it, haven't had tv for the past 5 years, yet I haven't missed a Real Madrid or TFC game
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by Saber1989 View Post
        Just stream it, haven't had tv for the past 5 years, yet I haven't missed a Real Madrid or TFC game
        It's probably not too late to seek help for the latter part of that, Saber.
      1. Ossington Mental Youth's Avatar
        Ossington Mental Youth -
        Why did goltv ever let go of the la liga rights?
        Im assuming they perhaps didnt get a chance and La Liga sold their canadian rights to beIN?
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Don't let them succeed, they suck. Do whatever you can to prevent the approval, they have set European soccer in the US, which had been making great strides back to the dark ages. It's almost impossible to follow any league. Their scheduling is horrible.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        I just want to watch my footy on a television, I'm getting sick of low quality feeds
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        not too pissed off just yet because my team is juventus so being italy's #1 grants them almost 100% coverage on RAI. coupled with the pretty good champions league coverage - i don't really have much to complain about. what i am missing though is la liga coverage. that said, beIN's handling of this is mindboggling.
      1. Russell Berrisford's Avatar
        Russell Berrisford -
        Worth it for the headline alone!

        If I believed in conspiracy theories I'd say that beIN was owned by the English Premier League who were just ensuring that their main competitors were unavailable in North America.

        I know that La Liga and the rest are probably happy with the money they got from this deal, but if a significant number of people can't actually watch them then eventually those people will lose interest, meaning that the value of their TV rights will ultimately drop.

        Kind of like what happened to boxing back in the day; sold it's soul to a TV company that nobody at the time could get and so the vast majority of people lost interest.

        As for the Championship, I think there are enough ex-pats scattered around the world to make an MLS/MLB style subscription service a viable proposition for the League, but I won't hold my breath.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        probably very naive, but I don't get why the leagues don't have their own online viewing channel, just like the NBA does for instance....
      1. TOguy's Avatar
        TOguy -
        Al Jazeera & BeIN are still in the playpen when it comes to the north american market. I think SN would buy the rights but beIN is probably asking for way too much for their leagues. At this point, I would like to see these leagues start up their own apps and just broadcast their games online, or for the apple tv users, a footy app w/ all leagues FOR A $ done by Pitch International with a portion of the $ going to each league. Look at NHL, NBA, MLB, and now ESPN.

        I have dealt with the CRTC before and they do take a while to get back to you about applications and whole process of bitting for a station. But overall, they do a pretty good job. With Canada's diversity growing at a steady rate, I dont see why they wouldn't bring in another sports channel for the avid international soccer, rugby, volleyball and tennis fans.

        There is a reason why soccer/football isn't growing in Canada and a lot of the blame is on beIN at the moment. So for you beIN exec that is reading this; what are you doing for soccer in North America besides repeating Barca-Real games & having your hosts talk out of their asses? Lastly, PLEASE REMOVE THE TITLE OF "NORTH AMERICA"S PREMIER SPORTS NETWORK" - Canada is part of North America and you ain't here.
      1. Michael McColl's Avatar
        Michael McColl -
        Good points about the Leagues setting up their own channels. They probably feel the demand may not be there and it's a lot more hassle than taking a cash lump sum. Would love it though.

        I think most of us know where to find the action if we want to.

        My team, AFC Wimbledon, will be lucky to be on TV once or twice at best, and although I subscribe to Dons Player for audio coverage and later highlights, my main gripe is that I want to watch good quality, reliable, HD coverage of all three football leagues without negotiating my way through pop up after pop up.

        Even when Sportsnet held those rights, they only showed Championship stuff during the regular season.

        Gol TV did great La Liga coverage but the quality of their channel on Telus was the equivalent of watching a stream at times. They showed all their games in HD, it's just providers wouldn't pick up the HD feed they told me.

        Just don't understand TV companies who pay good money for something then treat it so badly.

        In beIN's case, the US looks like it was their main goal to break in to.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        but from what i hear they haven't even done that properly.
      1. Greatest Cockney Rip Off's Avatar
        Greatest Cockney Rip Off -
        Great article and good job contacting the various organizations. Good to see some real journalism on this site exist.

        I was absolutely gutted about missing the football league playoffs last year. And although I now live in England (and have to watch Toronto matches on dodgy streams) I still am very interested in how this plays out. I wonder if this could go to the point where the rights could expire without a single match being shown?
      1. Greatest Cockney Rip Off's Avatar
        Greatest Cockney Rip Off -
        Quote Originally Posted by Michael McColl View Post
        Even when Sportsnet held those rights, they only showed Championship stuff during the regular season.
        SN also showed all of the Championship playoff matches and the League 1 and 2 finals.
      1. Raven's Avatar
        Raven -
        Great article, I watch the Championship as well (Leeds) and when SN had the rights I could PVR the 4am games and watch good quality HD games at leisure. I've totally switched to online viewing (MLS live, SN, and now TSN). This would be a simple solution to to the problem IMHO.
      1. Ar1's Avatar
        Ar1 -
        Quote Originally Posted by Greatest Cockney Rip Off View Post
        Great article and good job contacting the various organizations. Good to see some real journalism on this site exist.
        Perhaps you missed the matchfixing series CSN did last year? Or the CSA reform series before that? Or the turban issues a few months ago? All stories that garnered national and world attention? Hell, Canadian Press was quoting Canadian Soccer News reports on all three. Or, maybe you missed the other hundred or so breaking news items they've had since? Man, people have a short memory.

        Thank you Michael for another great article. Thank you CSN for existing.
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