For some travelers, two of the most annoying facets of air travel are not being able to use their mobile phones, and missing out on live sporting action.

However, with Emirates and a selection of other airlines now permitting mobile phone use in-flight, things are beginning to change. But what about catching that vital top-of-the-table football match when you’re 30,000 ft up in the sky? Well, there’s some good news on this front too.

London-based media company IMG Media, which is a part of the global sports, fashion and media company IMG Worldwide, has partnered with in-flight entertainment and communication (IFEC) systems company Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), to launch what it says is the “first-ever live global premium 24-hour sports channel” for its airline passengers this week.

Sport 24 will be available through Panasonic’s eXTV service, and will be broadcast via satellite to specially-equipped Gulf Air planes. It will feature live coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games from London, The Barclays Premier League and German Bundesliga (football), The Masters, The Open Championship and the Ryder Cup (golf), Formula 1, Roland Garros and the Australian Open (tennis).

The channel will also be rolled out to cruise-liners from March 1, with Norwegian Cruise Liners (NCL) the first operator to launch the channel on selected vessels.

Gulf Air

Whilst there are ongoing discussions with a number of other airlines interested in taking the service, Bahrain’s national airline Gulf Air will be the first to broadcast the channel starting this week, initially offering Sport 24 on its ‘Sky Hub’, available on its A330 fleet that fly long-haul, and on some intra-Gulf routes and destinations to Europe, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jeddah, Manila, Lahore and Islamabad. The airline’s network stretches from Europe to Asia, connecting 54 cities in 34 countries, with a fleet of 36 aircraft.

IMG Media is one of the world’s largest independent distributors of sports programming, dishing out more than 20,000 hours of content to major global broadcasters annually. This content originates from more than 200 clients and events including AELTC (Wimbledon), Tennis Australia (The Australian Open), TPL (ATP Masters 1000s), The R&A (The Open Championship), International Rugby Board (Rugby World Cup), Dorna (Moto GP), National Football League (NFL) and International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).

“Sport 24 will revolutionise the way passengers watch live sports on Airlines and Cruise Ships,” says Richard Wise, Senior Vice President, IMG Media. “For the first time ever viewers will be able to enjoy the greatest sporting events live while travelling on business or holidaying abroad. Sport fans will no longer have to miss their favourite team, or event on this new dedicated sports channel.”

Back in August, Virgin America announced it was beefing up its live in-flight sports content, adding NFL, college football and other sports games televised broadcast on NBC and FOX to its existing live broadcast content from ESPN and CBS.

Most airlines, however, only have highlights packages available for sports, and this latest move by IMG Media and Panasonic could help make those long-haul journeys just that little bit more enjoyable for sports fans.