I was sitting at home on Saturday afternoon pretty bored. I'd spent two hours of my life that I won't get back enduring the interminable "Atonement" earlier in the day, and noticed that there was a live 5.15pm Premiership game. I flicked on the Sky box. Only to discover, of course, it was on Setanta.
Half absent-mindedly, I went to the Setanta website to determine whether it was going to be worth subscribing to their service. It's £9.99 a month, and I noticed they had two Man United games this month. A fiver each, I thought (there is no contract with Setanta and so you can ancel at any time.)
I pondered this whilst sipping a cup of tea and listening to Jeff Stelling for a while, and began clicking through the Setanta site to see what else I'd potentially get for my tenner. At first, it wasn't really all that inspiring. "Live SPL!" it shrieked, which appears to be (other than it's Premier League matches) it's biggest draw. In principle, that sounds OK, until you realise that St Mirren v Motherwell might not actually be the most intriguing game in the football calendar (no disrespect to either team, by the way).
There was some golf coverage, and some random other events (the Australian Rugby League Grand Final which, to be fair, didn't even raise the interest of the Australian living in my household).
And then I noticed they were showing a live game from Le Championnat.
Now, the French league is not my favourite. But, as many will gauge from this site, I am a fan of continental football in general. Oddly, perhaps, not so much the Italian game (I find it a bit insipid) but I do watch the Spanish stuff on Sky. At any given minute I can also pretty much tell you who is top of any of the European leagues (you should see the Swedish league this season, by the way. Nine points separate the top 8 teams after 23 games. Brilliant). I can tell you results from the last round of games, goalscorers, that sort of thing.
The Spanish league gets the most publicity, mainly due to one David Beckham but also due to Sky's relative high priority for it. It's a good league, don't get me wrong. Me, though - I like the Northern European leagues where the football is cheap to attend, simple and competitive.
Live French football, I thought. That might be OK. And then I noticed that Setanta also show live Bundesliga football. Now you're talking, I thought. I've been to a Bundesliga game - it's rough and tumble and a bit like the English game without so much of the talent. I could certainly watch some of that.
And then I noticed one more thing which made me pick up the phone and call there and then. Now, faced with two live games between 5pm Saturday and Sunday, 99.8% of Setanta's new customers, I imagine, were ringing for Birmingham City v Manchester United. Clearly I watched that game (it was worse that "Atonement" for entertainment, although Cristiano Ronaldo and Keira Knightley's facial expressions bear some pouting, pensive resemblance) but I rang for the live Eredivisie match between Ajax and VVV-Venlo on Sunday lunchtime.
Live Dutch football in my living room. Bloody brilliant.
If there is a mile between the top and bottom of the Premier League in terms of class, there is the distance between Amsterdam and Pluto between the top and bottom of the Eredivisie. Venlo, promoted via the Dutch play-offs last season were torn to shreds by a really average Ajax side who never got out of reverse, never mind any forward gear. Venlo took the lead on 4 minutes, and all that did was wake some of Ajax's players from the dead. One of the most incompetent and comedy goalkeeping displays I have ever seen ensued and Ajax ran out 6-1 winners without even breaking into a jog. Albert Luque scored twice, for Lord's sake Yep, that's how easy it was.
This weekend on Setanta, as well as Arsenal v Sunderland (meh), we have Schalke v Karlsruhe, Sporting Lisbon v Guimaraes, Vitesse Arnhem v Feyenoord, Bayern Munich v Nurnberg, Bordeaux v Lyon and Borussia Dortmund v Bochum. Not all live, but all in full.
It's my new favourite channel. Tenner a month? Bargain.