By Tony Attwood
I am as appalled as anyone over the way Sky has had the power to change the timing of the Leicester game, not least because I know how much difficulty this has meant for Walter and the members of Arsenal Belgium. And not just because I count these guys as my friends, but because they are among the most dedicated fans I know.
There have been several suggestions made as to how fans might react. Blacksheep on Untold suggested giving up the Sky subscription. Leicester fans have suggested coming into the game five minutes late. But the reality is that Sky won’t report any of this, the Premier League will gloss over it, and it will be left until it happens again next season. Nothing will change save the fact that the precedent will have been set, Sky will see nothing happens and the greedy buggers will do it again next year.
But I think there is an alternative approach that will work. It won’t happen straight away but it could resolve the whole situation.
First off, let’s have all Premier League games televised live. Next season there will be six slots available – Friday night, Saturday 12.45pm, Saturday 5.30pm, Sunday 2pm, Sunday 4pm, Monday night. Four of these slots could have two matches in, and there you are – every match being televised.
Three months ahead the TV companies could bid for the rights for the games that weekend, and then we’d know what’s on, and that no further games would be moved. Throw in a rule that says every club must have equal numbers of games on each slot, and no one gets to suffer any more than anyone else.
It’s not at all ideal, but there is no ideal in this process, so let’s see what might happen.
Firstly with a choice of games, the audience per game might go down, although I doubt it, and even if it did, the extra number of games would compensate the clubs for that.
Second, international sales would go up, because there would be more games at different times on overseas TV.
Third, pressure would immediately build to remove the ludicrous rule that says no televised games on the Saturday afternoon. Get rid of that and some fixtures could be moved back to Saturday 3pm.
Fourth, we might presume that smaller PL clubs might lose out on their crowds at the games. We might presume that, but thus far there is no evidence of this. People still want to go to football matches, even away football matches staged at ludicrous times.
Fifth we could bring in rules that made it essential for matches to take into account the travel arrangements of fans. We do after all have computers to do these things.
So, televise all games, and abandon the Saturday rule and the 10 games scheduled for a weekend could run
- Saturday 1pm – two games
- Saturday 3pm – two games
- Saturday 5pm
- Saturday 7pm
- Sunday 1pm
- Sunday 3pm – two games
- Sunday 5pm
And look, we’ve now got rid of those wretched Friday and Monday games.
I don’t like this particularly, but it is better than the system we have at the moment, an equitable arrangement if we are going to have live football on TV, and if we are going to know a long way in advance when the games are going to be scheduled.
If you don’t like that, try this. All the 10 games are played on a Saturday at 3pm, and all are televised live with the TV stations paying compensation to any club that has less than it might have anticipated had their been no cameras. All we need then it is to get rid of the stupid “no live matches at 3pm Saturday rule” and all is sorted.
At this point the question arises, “what about Championship football?” etc.
If you read Untold regularly you might have picked up that I actually care a lot about lower league and grassroots football, and even though I spend my time watching Arsenal and I do very occasionally find a way to watch such clubs as Guernsey FC (my spiritual home on my mother’s side), Corby Town (my local club), Poole Town (the club I watched after my parents moved from north London to Dorset) and Torquay Utd (where I saw the last games that I shared with my father, before he passed away).
So what am I doing suggesting live football on TV all weekend?
The League refused to allow football on TV in England for years and years and years because it feared it would reduce the crowds. The Football League in the 1930s even stopped radio broadcasts of games for the similar reason. (There was no evidence, but then the Football League, like the aaa, has never liked evidence).
And yet despite the blackout, Arsenal’s crowds in the mid 1970s were down to under 20,000 at time – let me stress, with no football on TV. The reason was that the media, given free rein, painted a picture of football as being so bleak and appalling that no sane person would go to a match. People couldn’t judge for themselves, so didn’t go.
Opening up football to everyone on TV would not, in my view, stop people going. We go, because being there is part of the deal. Occasionally one of the smaller clubs I support gets a match on TV (yes they do show Conference games live), but I really have little interest in it. I go, because being there is everything.
But what if I’m wrong? OK, do the deal for one season as an experiment. See what happens. At least then we’d know.
Two more anniversaries
- 25 January 1981: Francis Jeffers born. He scored 20 goals for Arsenal but never delivered to his potential and continued a nomadic existence seemingly ending of his career with Accrington Stanley in 2013 – although he was reported having a trial with Chester in 2014.
- 25 January 1993: Leeds United 2 Arsenal 2. FA Cup 4th round. This was cup match 8 in Arsenal’sCup Double season. Parlour and Merson scored.