English Premier League season concludes Sunday; interactive services play a role

By Kevin Hilton
SVG Europe correspondent

The English Premier League football season is heading for its tightest ever conclusion this Sunday (May 11) and three crucial matches will be broadcast live simultaneously on Sky Sports channels, one through red button technology. Not only will the title be decided but so will the fate of clubs facing relegation from the top flight.

Of the teams under threat of playing their football in the second league Championship next season Birmingham City will take on Blackburn Rovers at 3pm (BST), with coverage on Sky Sports 1 using the interactive red button. This way of offering extra channels is becoming more common and among other broadcasters exploiting the capacity of interactivity is the BBC, which has used the red button for its coverage of snooker and Wimbledon tennis.

A spokesman for Sky Sports said that in the early days of the technology complaints were received from viewers but these were decreasing, showing that it was becoming accepted.

Manchester United, current holders of the Premier League title, and Chelsea are level on points but the champions have a superior goal difference and only need to win their match against Wigan Athletic to retain the championship. This match also kicks off at 3pm and will be on the main Sky Sports 1 channel.

At the same time Chelsea will take on League strugglers Bolton Wanderers, with the match screening on Sky Sports 2. “It’s a terrific end to a superb season and we are delighted to be able to cover three games of such importance in our 16th season of Premier League coverage,” commented Sky Sports’ managing director, Vic Wakeling. “When the final whistle blows on Sunday we shall have covered a record 92 live matches and after what we’ve seen so far we are all expecting an outstanding day.”

Seven other games will also be kicking off at 3pm on Sunday, including critical matches for two other relegation candidates, Reading, playing Derby County, who have already dropped out of the Premier League, and Fulham, who take on Portsmouth, but are just above the drop zone.

Sky will round up these other games and there will be highlights on BBC1’s Match of the Day programme in the evening. Setanta Sports will be broadcasting live the Portsmouth- Fulham match. BBC Radio Five Live will have live coverage of the Manchester United-Wigan match, contrasting with commercial broadcaster TalkSport’s decision to go with the Chelsea-Bolton game.

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