The Italian Super Cup has always been a must-see for the Italian public.
The perfect curtain-raiser to the new season, played on a warm August evening just as the dinner course is being served and the second bottle of wine is chilling nicely.The last three years have seen Inter - the champs - come up against AS Roma - the cup kings - drawing crowds well in excess of 40,000.Not this year: the San Siro and Stadio Olimpico will remain empty as the game is being played halfway round the world... in Beijing.
Beijing's beaming Bird's Nest
The Super Cup has ventured outside Italian borders in the past Ã¢ÂÂ to America and Libya Ã¢ÂÂ but the kick-off times were set to appeal to the audience back home.
However, when Inter and Lazio line up at 2pm in the afternoon Italian time on Saturday, August 8 most of the population will be lounging on the beach or seeking out the cooling breezes of the mountains: not perched on the edge of their sofas watching the the television.In fact, the Football LeagueÃ¢ÂÂs decision to move the game to China has not only penalised the genuine Inter and Lazio fans, but also taken the game out of the realm of an Italian sporting event.The League may see their coffers swell by something in the region of 2.5million euro for the pleasure of Inter and Lazio having to trek across a few time zones to feather the BirdÃ¢ÂÂs Nest stadium.However, the spectacle will be played in front of a crowd that, in all honesty, will not be too concerned who they support as long as they get full value for their 21 euro entrance fee.Ã¢ÂÂWe are exporting the Ã¢ÂÂbrandÃ¢ÂÂ,Ã¢ÂÂ pleaded the League in their defence, before demonstrating a total disregard for their core followers back home by pithily adding: Ã¢ÂÂfans who are interested will find a way to watch the game.Ã¢ÂÂWill they now? Italian television, for its part, has taken no interest in acquiring the exclusive rights: 600,000 euro if you please. At the moment, state broadcaster RAI feels obliged to air the game - out of national pride - but only at a reduced outlay on their part.Apart from that, Silvio BerlusconiÃ¢ÂÂs Mediaset has no interest, neither do Sportitalia or Sky, which leaves little-known pay-per-view channels Conto TV and Dahla as the only other alternatives.These latter pair have claimed they could stretch their budgets to 200,000 euro, but that is a definite non-starter.
"Thanks, but no thanks"
Anyway, who will be tuning in to a minor subscription channel whose main output is targeted towards the lonely late-night viewer?
The League are already gearing themselves up for the 2010/11 season when collective TV rights for the whole of Serie A will see games kicking-off at 12.30, 9pm and maybe even Monday night.The Super Cup Ã¢ÂÂexperimentÃ¢ÂÂ looks like the first step in ItalyÃ¢ÂÂs most popular sport moving further way from its fan base in search of the far-flung, fast buck.
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