We knew something was up, two days ago, when we saw the story, in French, about TV negotiations between Irish and French TV stations about televising the two matches in the upcoming European playoff. When we wrote about it on this blog and tried to puzzle out what the French story was telling us.
Now we have an English version of it, thanks to the Irish Independent newspaper's Web site.
This is about the France vs. Ireland home-and-home playoff, one of four two-match playoffs pitting second-place finishers from European group competition -- for the final quartet of South Africa 2010 matches.
The issue seems to be ... that France is annoyed that Ireland sold the broadcast rights for the Dublin match on Nov. 14 to an independent outlet ... and now France is asking for far more money (about $3 million) than Ireland expects to pay (about $1.2 million) for the Paris match on Nov. 18.
Television problems are not unusual in qualifying matches, unfortunately.
The story mentions how Ireland was unable to see the 2000 Euro Cup qualifier when the Irish played at Turkey.
Just last month, the critical United States-Honduras match, in Honduras, was sold to a Spanish firm that decided to show the match via closed-circuit TV -- an archaic distribution system that limits exposure to individual outlets that pay high rates for a hookup.
A tiny fraction of American soccer fans saw the match, and many of the rest were outraged that the game was, effectively, blacked out in Anno Domini 2009.
And now ... if the French and Irish don't get this figured out, fans in Ireland (and the rest of Britain, it appears) won't be able to see the match at Stade de France. With a World Cup berth on the line.
That would be awful.
The way FIFA handles this? The home country controls television rights. Usually it works out. Reasonable people get together and make reasonable deals. But then there are times ...
FIFA ought to consider making rules that establish basic over-the-air TV access for all qualifying matches. It only hurts the sport, frustrating and angering fans, when critical matches go unseen.