We hate to be cynics here at DPME.com, and were genuinely hopeful that all would go smoothly with the transition of English Premier League screening rights from Abu Dhabi Media to Al Jazeera Sports. We were even more hopeful when we contacted Al Jazeera in personal capacity to enquire which channels and subscription package would be required to watch the 2013/14 season and were assured that all the games would be shown on AJ's exisiting sports channels, and took out a subscription accordingly.
We reached hitherto unheard of levels of hope when watching last Sunday's Community Shield - a dire affair that had one highlight: New hosts Graysy and Keyesy running through this weekend's opening round of matches and what channels they were on. It all made sense. For the record, Manchester City's opening Monday clash with Newcastle United was due to be screened on AJ Sports +10.
Of course, we should have known better. With kick off just 48 hours away, Al Jazeera has removed the channels +5 to +10 from its listings, and most EPL games now seem to be scheduled for the newly announced HD3-HD6. Which, having not previously existed are not part of anyone's existing packages. Logically, it could be worse, we can just subscribe to the new channels, right?
Wrong, it appears. At the time of writing, it seems neither of the UAE's main carriers, Du and Etisalat, have received any information from Al jazeera about how to actually open up the new channels for viewers. Indeed, a Du spokesman quoted in The National stated that as far as he knew all the games would be screening on +9 and +10, which seemingly no longer exist, so basically they know as much as we do.
To compound matters, our sources in Doha inform us that all of Al Jazeera Sport's management are still out of the office on Eid holidays, and due to return to work on Friday. Which obviously is a weekend, so we're probably looking at Sunday really. The season, obviously, kicks off on Saturday. As an aside, our sources tell us that AJ has been interviewing sales people to cope with the extra demand for subscriptions. But hasn't as yet employed any of them.
Running a quick straw poll of fans around Dubai Media City today, temperatures were clearly running high. Tom Norton, a Spurs fan from the UK, said: "For Al Jazeera to leave fans in the dark over such an important matter is disgusting. I was really looking forward to seeing how we cope without Gareth Bale." Another fan expressed dismay that he'd probably now have to go to a hotel to watch the game, seemingly blissfully unaware that hotels have as much idea over how to subscribe as he does. We're sure it'll all work out by Christmas, and we hate to say we told you so to the EPL's money-grabbing international rights department, but we told you so. Enjoy the new season.