Remember back in Lockdown when every day we all debated whether it was morally correct for Football to be returning? On one hand our government was telling us It’s not safe to go to a funeral, but it’s okay for 22 men to be sweating on top of one another.
Of course, where possible you don’t want to see any business suffer if it can be helped. Premiership clubs made it clear they were willing to jump through as many hoops as it took to not breach contracts they had with TV Companies.
It didn’t look good on the likes of Sky or BT, who easily could have compromised, but all parties were confirming what we deep down know. The priority is to make as much money as possible.
So whether it be a congested schedule, fake crowd noise, additional substitutions, whatever, ….everyone did what they could to lose as little income as possible.
The fixture list was fulfilled, broadcasters got their content, and owners didn’t have to compensate other companies (they have slightly, due to some advertisers arguing this wasn’t the version of the game they were endorsing).
Unlike where the Sport stopped suddenly in March, there has been a longer time to make plans for the 2020-2021 season. Clubs will be adjusting their budgets on the worst-case scenario that they possibly won’t get any match day revenue till next year, even then it won’t be the maximum they normally get on a Match day.
So, in this coming campaign 20 additional live games have been added to the TV schedule which, while it’s being advertised as a goodwill gesture to those who pay subscription fees, off the record it’s more of a compromise between the Premier League and Networks.
There are fans I know who are put off by watching games live without a crowd. So the action plan clearly by TV Executives is that more content will stop them from losing customers, and the least the Prem can do is give them that without additional cost, seing as Football in empty stadiums wasn’t what they agreed on when handing over a billion pound plus contract.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to not call each other’s bluff. Sky needs the Premiership; the Premiership need Sky. If Sky, for example, had sued the League, they would only be hurting themselves because they can’t afford in the current economy to lose rights to the most popular sport in the UK.
I wrote back in March how Football handles this global crisis could alienate even the most hardcore of Fans. They responded by ensuring that every remaining game in the Prem was able to be watched somewhere on TV.
They understood, apparently, that if supporters could no longer go to stadiums then the least they could do is make sure their needs were being catered for at home. After all that’s why they were doing this right? For Us. That’s what the Government said wasn’t it?
That the return of Football could at least be an escapism at a time when people were forced to stay at home, some away from their families.
If they had to have a couple of water breaks, if they had to wear masks on the bench, if they had played every few days …. by god they were going to do it …. to put smiles of our faces …….that’s why football was back for …. the public.
The remaining few who believed that will struggle to defend the decision that starting from September 12th, we return to the old model. Sky and BT pick what games they want access to with BBC showing highlights.
So if you’re that man or woman who went to the Emirates every other week, not just have you lost that ritual, your small comfort of at least still being able to watch Arsenal live is gone.
The irony being is how many pundits did I hear that said this has highlighted how important fans are to the game, and how we should be treated better when we return?
Something tells me the likes of Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Ian Wright will be banned from saying that, as I’m sure Match Of The Day are more than happy that they have extra viewers … the fan who would have normally been at the game is almost forced now to watch highlights.
So why the change? After all, parts of the UK still have strict social distancing rules and there are still fears of a second spike.
Logically from March to June it was a PR move from everyone involved, knowing there were those uncomfortable with Football returning. At a time when your Prime Minister is advising you to stay indoors, the Premier League look like they are doing a generous deed by giving you extra games for free.
In reality, they would have been checking ratings to see how responsive viewers were to the ‘new normal’. One they were assured that they were not going to lose too many viewers they turn into Scrooge again.
Only after of course shirts have been sold, memberships renewed, etc.
I, for example, was about to order our away shirt, but feel less inclined to now. I’m already paying for a membership which I don’t know if it will be any use (I forgot it was a direct debit and of course Arsenal just took). Now I can’t even watch my team?
Yet pay 65 pounds for a shirt?
Of course, no one makes you pay for anything, and for decades now our love for the sport has been exploited. Arsenal for example know they can charge ridiculous prices for season tickets because they have a fanbase so passionate they will find the money. Maybe just maybe I thought if there was one year where fans would be treated better, it would be now.
Maybe I’m naive?
MP’s are getting involved to try and get Football to change its mind. They cite a fear that it will encourage an increase in illegal piracy, but long term it’s their own brand they are hurting.
After all, the second they get a chance they are relying on me and you to pack a stadium, to buy a burger, to go home with merchandise. All to make Millionaires richer. I bet then we will be told how special we are. Yet when we can’t go to stadiums, we don’t seem to matter. Which is fine, it’s a business but long term as a business, whether it be Sky, BT, or the Premier League themselves…. they hurt their image…