By Ben Marsden
For many across the country, the weekend not only brings a break from work but also the joy of watching sport at home, in the stands or the pub. But with season tickets and travel costs rising dramatically over the last decade, and the now outrageous TV subscription costs, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to watch your chosen team without spending nearly a thousand pounds. Even after those extortionate costs you may still find the only way to watch your team is via a Twitter stream or a dodgy firestick, which I’m sure none of us have ever done of course.
Throughout a 10-month season, Sky TV with Sky Sports costs around £450 depending on what package you’ve splashed out on. You can then add BT Sport for £29.99 to your Sky package, which gets you access to 52 Premier League matches a season, Champions League, Europa League, Conference League, Ligue 1, and Serie A. That takes the total up to £750 for a ten-month season. A ludicrous amount to be spending to not even be guaranteed every game when you consider some Christmas-time games are shown on Amazon Prime.
For supporters of the bigger teams in England, the money may be worth it, with the traditional top 6, as well as Everton and Newcastle, shown live 10 or more times by the time the current season gets to mid-January. Yet Burnley and Bournemouth fans are limited to only five and four TV appearances respectively. £750 to watch your team on TV four times in half a season is just not viable for many fans.
Fixture congestion and increasingly bizarre kick-off times to suit TV demands mean fans are increasingly struggling to get to games live, even when they have tackled the obstacle of travel costs and acquiring tickets. It therefore seems unfair that fans should be expected to pay out these sums of money, to companies already raking it in. The Premier League recently announced that the number of live matches will be increased to 270 from 2025. It would be sensible to assume that the money spent would at least be worth it now, yet this is not the case.
This is yet another move by the league to create further revenue growth in TV rights that are already worth an estimated £5bn across a three-year deal. With football becoming a sport increasingly focused on money both on and off the pitch there is extreme danger of many fans being alienated from the sport because of economic reasons – an absurd idea for what is supposed to be a working-class sport. The one aspect this new deal has got right is keeping a TV blackout for the 3 o’clock Saturday fixtures. Whilst it is annoying that the most traditional kick-off time in the UK is not televised, there is the valid worry that if 3 pm games in the Premier League were televised then attendance for lower league matches across the country would drop. This would cause huge drops in revenue for lower league clubs widening the already significant gap between the top tier of English football on and off the pitch.
Even then, this issue is only being discussed in the context of Premier League teams. For those teams in the Championship, League 1 and lower they’ll be lucky to be on live TV more than 5 times across a whole season. It is impossible to suggest that every game in the English Football League should be televised, but the costs for limited matches are excessive and need to be fixed. The situation is made worse when you consider that for many games a season American audiences can watch matches that it is impossible to legally watch in the UK. It is not surprising therefore that an estimated 3.9 million people illegally watch live sport in the UK.
The Premier League has attempted to crack down on illegal streaming sites in recent years, with five men sentenced to 30 years in prison earlier this year for running an illegal streaming network. It is clear that prices need to be dropped before the illegal streaming epidemic gets out of hand or even more fans become alienated from the sport.
Image: The Roaming Picture Taker via Flickr