Wales football team draws viewers to S4C, says Welsh Affairs Committee

Eight of the ten most popular programs on S4C are sports, according to the channel’s general manager.

Siân Doyle and Rhodri Williams, chairman of S4C, gave evidence to members of the Welsh Affairs Committee in the House of Commons this morning, July 13.

Over the next four years, S4C has secured the free broadcast rights to show Wales men’s national football team matches from 2022 and 2024, and Wales rugby matches in the Sixs Championship Nations.

But, from 2025, there are concerns about obtaining these free broadcasting rights for the Welsh language.

Managing Director of S4C, Siân Doyle

In response to the Ben Lake MP’s question about the “challenges” this presented, Siân Doyle spoke of the “importance” of broadcasting sports programs on S4C.

“There are so many opportunities to bring a new audience to the channel by putting sports on it,” she said. “We know it’s part of Welsh culture – we all grew up with rugby or football or whatever it was.”

According to Ms. Doyle, the channel broadcasts: “some 430 hours of sport, or 28% of what brings us a large audience… Eight out of ten of our most popular programs are sport”.

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She added that the Welsh football team’s recent wins against Austria and Ukraine had “helped” attract this audience.

Regarding the challenges, Ms Doyle said: “Our audience says they don’t want to see these big games go behind the paywall.”

The National Wales: fans of Wales.  Photo: PAWales fans. Photo: PA

Dissemination through Welsh, she said, is: “Essential to the success of the language in Wales”.

Lake agreed with her, but also wanted to know what the government could do to help.

“How much of a concern is this for the channel? in terms of free broadcast rights, he asked.

Ms Doyle said: “When it comes to the Six Nations, we are doing well because we are working with the BBC. When it comes to football matches (men’s national team), everyone thinks at the moment that 2022-24 is awesome…the challenge we have now is 2024-28.”

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Indeed, the company that won the broadcast deal, Ms. Doyle said, is putting the games: “behind the paywall. Residents of Wales will not be able to watch Wales matches, in Welsh, for free – a subscription will need to be paid for.

“I think that’s something the government could help with. Because we want to make sure the Welsh language flourishes is essential. And sport is an integral part of what we do.”

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