Italia ‘90. Ireland reached their first and, as it turns out, last ever match in the final stages of the FIFA World Cup competition.
While they may have ended up losing to Italy by a single goal, it is still one of those memories that those of us that grew up in Ireland in that era will never forget.
The whole country, young and old, city and rural, felt the pain of every missed chance and the joy of every goal as much as if they were on the pitch wearing a green jersey.
As this year’s World Cup is in full swing, I can think of no better example of the power of sport to bring people together as a united community. And the Irish public broadcaster, RTE, were at the heart of it.
Public service media (PSM) are central to the shared viewing experience – ensuring all the major sporting events are available to everyone everywhere free-to-air. And, our job at the EBU is to support them, by negotiating rights on their behalf with sports federations worldwide.
This summer, audiences across Europe will be able to enjoy an exciting array of sports thanks to deals negotiated by EBU Sport.
We provide our Members with access to 18 different sports with contracts covering more than 200 events every year. The range is enormous - from high-profile competitions such as the Tour de France to smaller events such as Summer Biathlon.
Because our free-to-air audiences are much higher than those on Pay TV, we have become an important avenue to really grow fan bases by engaging new audiences.
By working with the EBU and our Members, sports federations are able to reach the widest possible audience, with high quality, innovative and credible content, on all platforms. A good example is a sport like skiing, which has significantly increased its exposure at both a national and international level by working directly with PSM.
In August, we will also see the launch of the inaugural European Championships – an event in which the EBU was a key development partner – bringing together seven of the leading summer sports into one must-see event.
Sports fans worldwide will be able to enjoy around 325 hours of programming from the Championships with broadcasters in more than 40 territories - including all of Europe’s major public service broadcasters - covering the event on television, radio and online.
The EBU is not only acting as the broadcast partner for the event but, through its business arm Eurovision Media Services, it will act as Host Broadcaster and distribute the event to media organizations worldwide, providing a true one-stop shop for federations and event organizers.
PSM has an important role to play in promoting cultural citizenship through sport– making events accessible to all, regardless of geography or income, and involving everyone in the national conversation.
Sadly, Ireland have not qualified for the FIFA Wold Cup this year so we won’t be able to recreate the same party atmosphere. But I know millions more around the world will be celebrating.
Maybe not every country will reach the audience heights of Iceland who qualified for their first ever World Cup this summer and whose opening game enjoyed a 99.6% share of the TV audience. But early indications from around Europe are that free-to-air audience figures for this year’s World Cup are incredibly high.
That’s why I believe that all major sporting events should remain free-to-air. Nothing else – maybe with the exception of the Eurovision Song Contest! – has the ability to bring nations together around their television sets in the same way. And, win or lose, that is something we should all celebrate.