So, Mr Sky, why? Why five of Arsenal’s fixtures in April? OK, I understand the Manchester City and Tottenham games. And why the longest journey on a Monday night? Don’t answer; we know. Supporters will still get there and in any case, so long as the home fans turn up, the ground looks fairly busy to sponsors. Not much by the way of atmosphere but that’s the road football has long been venturing down.
Of course, Arsenal have nothing to do with it. Sky doesn’t care about the top four race; they just want to be the first broadcaster to collar Arsène when he announces his decision over the contract offer from the club. He’ll probably tell beIN first when we have another pointless international break at the end of the month. He is, after all, nothing but loyal and beIN are his paymaster.
That’s of no consolation to supporters planning to travel to Teeside and now either getting home at an ungodly hour or staying overnight in an ungodly town. Arsenal’s interim financials underline the extent of the problem. Matchday income is becoming less important – we still need it, of course, but the percentage of the total revenues continues to drop. As a result, the broadcasters have more power. It isn’t rocket science to know that they would prefer a percentage of the non-travelling crowd to become their customers.
It isn’t beyond the wit of the Premier League to find a solution. Well, obviously it is otherwise we wouldn’t have this mess in the first place. However, a 100-mile radius for Monday Night Football ought to apply. Broadcasters benefit from a more intense atmosphere while less supporters lose out than win. There is no solution football is prepared to countenance which is ‘win-win’.
Archaic Rules Turn The Sky Blue
Football in the UK still has a blackout on a Saturday afternoon between 3pm and 5pm. Protecting the lower divisions, is the argument put forward, which is patently untrue as it was put in place half-a-century ago or more, before live matches were broadcast. The BBC couldn’t even announce which game(s) Match Of The Day would broadcast until the 1970s. When you arrived at the ground and saw the BBC vans outside, it put a little more frisson in the air for the younger supporters.
With streams becoming more and more accessible, the blackout makes less sense, particularly since the government is determined to force the telecoms companies to invest in fibre, superfast fibre and so fast you can’t even see it fibre. Ludicrously, it includes all overseas matches with the first Clasico of the season not shown live in the UK (legally). Yet Sky quite happily shows Premier League games live overseas; ‘cake’ and ‘eat it’ spring immediately to mind.
There is a balance to be found but no willingness to do so. Football long ago twigged that supporters are a captive audience and with the continuing success of the Premier League, sees no reason to be accommodating. Any success in Europe will only increase demand, with the bubble continuing to expand contentedly. However, more money could be made if a live match were broadcast. To be honest, with Sky or BT at every game, is there any reason for anyone to know which is the live game beforehand? Almost pitch up on the day, wherever the mood takes them, and show the match.
Football Overstates The Case
I have my doubts whether grassroots football will be affected greatly – or even more than minimally. Most supporters of lower division clubs dislike the Premier League while non-league supporters are a different breed entirely. Chelsea v Middlesbrough isn’t going to impact their decision on whether to watch Old Scruttock v Little Dribble.
Making these games outside of the ‘contractual choices’ which already exist offers more scope for showing lesser matches. It doesn’t just have to be Premier League games; it can cover any division so that few genuinely know. I’m fairly confident that the archaic fears won’t come to pass, just as video refereeing won’t spoil matches.
It’s another money-spinner for football, if they want it and the Premier League has never been shy of that. It’s got to be worth a trial at least. English attendances continue to grow overall which suggests the thought processes of Chairman Hardaker and his acolytes remain as outdated today as they were when he had them.
Until then, it’s a Monday night slog to the arse-end of the country for the brave and hardy souls.