BT and Eir takeover most of the television rugby rights this year. Is it worth paying for their service?

As a season ticket holder, I try to go to all the games. That means that I would not ordinarily need to have these available on TV. Sometimes I might want to see a replay of an incident, so I record the games, but I can live without that.

That leaves just the away games to worry about. Let’s look at the fixtures that are coming up to see if they are worth the cost.

Leinster start the season away from home. They faced Cardiff last Friday and Scarlets this Saturday. Both games are being televised on TG4, so there is a free option. In addition, Eir showed the first game of the season free to air.

We play the next two home games against Dragons on Saturday 15th and Edinburgh on Saturday 22nd. The first is on TG4 but if you cannot make the second game, you will have to fork out for Eir. But it’s a home game so I expect to be in the RDS.

We travel to the Sportsground to play Connacht on 29th. This is another game that’s being shown on TG4. It may also be a good away trip to get under the belt early in the season. It’s a small ground so book match tickets before travelling.

We are at home for the first two games in October, against Munster in the Pro 14 and welcoming Wasps for the first European game. Aviva Stadiom plays host to the men from the south, while Wasps will visit the RDS. The games will be shown on Eir Sport and BT respectively.

So now we come to the first of the problem matches. Leinster fly to Toulouse for a game on 21st October. This would make a nice away trip but I don’t think I will be going there this time — too early in the season for the expense. It’s only showing live on BT.

The next two weeks also has a game exclusive to the pay channels. Leinster play away to Treviso on 27th October. The following week Leinster play away to the Southern Kings on 4th November. It’s starting to look grim for free Leinster away games.

RTE is covering the international games in November so let’s move on to concentrate on Leinster for now. We come back to the RDS in late November to play the Ospreys on 23rd. This game and the one the following week, against Dragons on 1st December, are both available on TG4.

This leads nicely into the December European back to back games against Bath. My plans are to make the away trip and to be in the Aviva for the return. BT have exclusive rights to both games.

And then it gets really depressing. All three of the inter-provincial derby games over the Christmas are exclusive to Eir, as it stands. At least two of the games are home, Connacht and Ulster, with the game against Munster on 29th being the one problem. It’s 5:15 kick off, so it may be possible to do a day trip to Thomond by train without too much expense.

January 12th sees us welcome Toulouse to the RDS and the following week we play the last of the European pool games against Wasps on 20th. These are both once again exclusive to BT.

Three of the next four games are home games, against Scarlets, Kings and Cheetahs with an away game against Zebre. The latter game is rarely televised anyway but this time it is available on Eir.

This brings us up to the end of the scheduled games and also to the end of the Six Nations tournament, which is available free to air on TV3.

The Eir Sport package costs €29.99 per month. This includes access to BT so with one subscription you will be able to see all of the Leinster games that have so far been scheduled.

In addition, the broadcasters claim that there is more Pro 14 rugby than ever being shown this year, thanks to the new deal. There are few games that will not have any coverage on these islands.

Now I like my rugby. And if a non-Leinster game is on the box, I might tune it in for a while to check out the opposition, to see if there’s anything we need to be worried about. But I won’t use that as a basis on which to decide to purchase the paid TV. It is a bonus, but may never be used.

Here is a summary of the away games that are not available on non-pay television:

  • Toulouse (Europe)
  • Treviso
  • Southern Kings
  • Bath (Europe)
  • Munster
  • Wasps (Europe)
  • Zebre

The three European games are must-see, as is the Munster game in Thomond. I think the rest are not going to hurt to much if I miss them.

Given that most rugby pubs and clubs will show all four games, it may make the most economical sense to avoid paying for Eir and BT. That would be €209.93 for September through to March (that’s as far as the fixtures go so far). Three or four pints in the pub will come to about €60 for the four games.

Be warned. How often have we met for one or two during the game which has turned into a full night out, kebab and taxi included? Be careful about planning your Leinster viewing in the pub.

If you do decide to pay for the privilege of watching Leinster play in these away fixtures, be sure to look out for or ask for a special deal from Eir, the first month should be a lot cheaper than full price.

Whichever way you go, enjoy what promises to be an interesting season defending both domestic and European titles. With Ireland’s World Cup campaign and Six Nations title defence involved the provinces will be stretched in terms of resources.

What a great year it could turn out to be.