As some of our Board members have been working with the detail of broadcast deals for some time, we thought it was worth breaking things down and explaining the issues.
It’s a positive thing that the clubs have finally recognised that fans need to be able to see their teams while stadiums are closed. This has happened because of sustained pressure from fans. Broadcasting all games means that, on two fronts, the situation is better than normal.
First, ALL fans, not just season ticket holders or regular match-goers, are now able to watch their team legally when they play league games. Second, those fans who would normally pay for a ticket to attend the match in person are paying less than they would per game to watch their team.
Of course, watching on TV is an inferior experience for regular match-going fans. And there will be a variety of views on what price properly reflects that. But the statements above remain true.
However, the price of £14.95 per game is too high. And because it is too high, it could have damaging effects – not just on individual’s finances at a time when many are stretched. It will encourage use of illegal streams, therefore diverting money from the game. And it will encourage people to gather in households and pubs to watch games together.
The current plan also penalises fans of those clubs less likely to be selected on the regular broadcast schedule. They will have to pay more to watch their team than fans of the so-called glamour clubs.
A cheaper price point would not only have been fairer, it would have had more chance of expanding the audience and generating more income. And it would have shown that the Premier League is aware of the situation people outside its bubble are in.
The devil, as always, is in the detail. We need to know whether or not existing customers of the broadcasters involved will have to pay the same as new ones. We need to know if fans who have already paid up front for all or part of their season ticket will be able to offset that against the pay-per-view deal. The situation at each club will be different, but these details matter.
We also need to know where the money is going – to the clubs, or to the TV companies. We understand broadcasters incur costs by televising games. We also understand that, despite its regular boasting about its financial success, the Premier League is being hit financially by the current pandemic. Few businesses give their products away for free, and they are especially unlikely to do so when income has been severely affected.
But we want to know how the Premier League arrived at the price point of £14.95. We would have hoped that, through the dialogue between the Premier League and the Football Supporters’ Association, fan groups would have been canvassed on price sensitivity. Needless to say, this didn’t happen. It is an opportunity missed.
The accumulated cost of subscriptions to BT Sport, Sky Sports, Amazon Prime, Premier Sports… along with the streaming fees for EFL Cup games and potentially FA Cup games in challenging fiscal times places additional stress on fans’ finances and that’s something the broadcasters, clubs and competition organisers must recognise. We understand that clubs did not want to link broadcast charges to season ticket packages because of the administrative burden. We don’t believe the answer is to pass the administrative and financial burden on to fans.
Despite the clubs reportedly voting unanimously for this, it didn’t take long for anonymous briefings to surface suggesting some clubs didn’t really agree with what they had voted for. That came in the face of almost universal condemnation of the decision. This suggests at least some clubs know they’ve got this badly wrong. So we’ll say this once again, simply, so it can’t be misunderstood.
Sit down with the fans. Agree a deal that works for everyone. And then we can all get back to enjoying football and dealing with the many pressing other problems in life.
9 October 2020