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June 2021

Premier League moves towards our suggestions, although more out of desperation than agreement

by Tony Attwood

It was, I think, about five years ago that Blacksheep, Walter and I drew up a list of ten reforms that between us we felt could make Premier League football much more enjoyable all round, and one of these was the live TV broadcasting of all matches with a return to all games being on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm.

As we have said before, there is the restriction which I think comes from Fifa, that matches cannot be broadcast at the same time as the period designated as normal kick off time (which is 3pm Saturday in England) but nothing has been done to challenge that ruling.  So in each round of bidding for programmes the number of games moved to odd times, goes up.

I also recently made the point recently that in this next round of bidding there could be some new bidders available with the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and possibly even Netflix getting involved.  For the latter it would be a step in a new direction, but they certainly have the technology, and are very aggressive in their buying up of series and commissioning new material of their own, so it is possible.

But even without Netflix, Sky and BT could be challenged by one or two of the others, and my guess is that if they wanted a slice of the action they could certainly outbid anyone else.  With their low taxation business style and their mega profits, Google and Amazon could indeed pay far more than anything Sky could afford.

However even leaving the newcomers aside, the last two rounds of bidding for the right to show Premier League footie in the UK have seen dramatic rises in the cost Sky and BT have had to pay.  In 2015 Sky paid £4.2bn for five of the seven TV packages while rival BT paid £960m for the other two.

That deal ran from 2016 and continues until 2019 and it cost Sky 83% more than it paid in the round of bidding in 2012.  However BT got away lightly and paid only 18% more – and managed to squeeze into that deal four extra matches a year.  In retrospect that looks like a clever ploy – but possibly one that they might not get away with again.

The total package cost £5.1bn and now the League ~(of course) wants to go even higher.  But… I am not at all sure that either BT or Sky are actually getting that money back through advertising and sponsorship deals, and even if they are, another hefty hike could well then leave them each losing money by showing sports.  If the successful bidder really does end up paying getting on for £7bn, which is what some analysts are talking about, then I suspect we will be getting beyond a figure that can be recouped.

Companies would then only bid for live football if they could make it part of a bigger package.  Facebook, Google and Amazon could do this.  Sky has already done it by bundling the football with other sports and the rest of its channels.

And thus Sky could be facing the crisis that hit the BBC and its coverage of cricket – it was always there, year on year, until suddenly it was outbid.  Much teeth gnashing followed.

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What is going on offer this time are three midweek rounds of fixtures and a bank holiday programme, meaning a complete set of matches on a few occasions.  This of course is in addition to all the existing packages.

In total seven packages will be going out to tender for broadcasting starting in 2019/20, of which one of the new ones will contain 20 games across two midweek slots and another will include a midweek and a bank holiday fixture schedule… at least that is how the Telegraph is reporting it.

In another disruption to the rest of our lives there will be eight Saturday night matches, kicking off at  7.45pm.   Of course I know I’m not typical, but this season, for the first time, I’ve missed a game covered by my season ticket just because of the crazy scheduling time.  I suspect there will be more to come,

In England, Saturday night is still seen as a prime time for watching the TV by people who don’t have anything else to do on a Saturday night, and it seems there are quite a few such people.  Sadly for me I think those of us with regular social commitments on Friday and Saturday nights are now in a minority, so we have to choose what we want to do – football or something else.  The old days when I could go to the Arsenal on saturday afternoon, drive back up the motorway and be home in time to change and engage in another social activity on saturday evening, is very much a thing of the past.

Thus the league has announced that the number of live games per season is rising to around 200 from its current level of 168.  There are 760 games in the PL each season, so we are still only going to be running at a quarter of all matches shown.  The problem for those of us supporting Arsenal is that a disproportionate number of our games are shown.

Bidding closes at the end of February 2018, and as before, no one will know exactly what the other bidders are putting in, nor who the other bidders are (unless they come out and make a public statement that they are bidding). The process could be fun, although I suspect the result for those of us who like to go to matches, and indeed those of us who travel quite a distance so to do), is going to be ever more disruption and difficulty.

But then who cares about the people who actually go to games?  The PL offers more and more games each time, to bring in more and more money, which is then spent on players’ wages.  Does it actually make for better football, or more enjoyable football?  I suspect not.

20 comments to Premier League moves towards our suggestions, although more out of desperation than agreement

  • porter

    Having a season ticket is no longer feasible , I am grateful that I had the chance to enjoy my time on the Clock end and North Bank at Highbury from my childhood until it finally closed . I continued my ST at the new place but slowly and surely the spark has gone . The silly oclock kick offs , the early morning starts on some matches and the late night /early morning returns home on others.the 240 mile round trip. What day do you plan work or family commitments ? My families connection to the club which goes back to the Woolwich Arsenal is gone . Due to ill health this year I have not seen a single match in the flesh and I doubt that I will again in the future.
    Television / media has won . What will I as a pensioner now have to subscribe for to watch matches ? How many outlets will I have to sign up for. ?

    Football is driving away it’s core support . I wonder if and when the bubble will finally burst.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Porter, what was your familys connection to the Arsenal down at Woolwich?

  • Gord

    Continuing on Kenneth’s question, maybe the Arsenal History site (and/or here) might want to have your story?

  • Gord

    On is this in a Wenger interview:

    on kicking off at midday against Southampton…
    Yes, but we had that last week. I have nothing against the fact that we have to do that, as long as our opponents have the same recovery days. That was not the case last week and will not be the case again. Between three days and five days is a big gap on the recovery side. If we have to play every day I don’t mind as long as our opponents do as well.

    Our next opponent is Southampton at noon on Sunday. Perhaps what would be nice, is if Southampton was somehow “forced” to play a game of some intensity also yesterday, giving them only the same amount of time to recover for the upcoming game on Sunday.

    It may be that these teams not playing “extra” games (extra with respect to the League Cup, the FA Cup, Champions League or Europa Cup) could arrange for a different type of game to take place so as to even things out?

    For example, if Arsenal was no longer in the League Cup but Southampton was still in the League Cup, perhaps their next League Cup game could be moved up to yesterday? But this type of idea now cascades problems elsewhere.

    Another idea would be for them to arrange a “friendly”. Perhaps some team in a league with a winter break, might be interested in playing a friendly? Or, perhaps some country which has long snowy winters (such as Canada) might be able to field a national team to play a friendly against a club team (such as Southampton).

    This would allow the club another set of revenues, which might be welcomed.

    And for a country like Canada (who has a hopeless men’s national team), it would get them more competition and maybe they would improve? In the case of Canada, if Southampton had a Ladies team, perhaps a pair of friendlies could be arranged, whereby both the Southampton mens and ladies teams could play against Canada’s mens and ladies teams?

  • Andy Mack

    Gord, it’s impossible to get 2 clubs with exactly the same rest time on a regular basis because (as you say) many teams get knocked out of the cups and/or don’t play in Europe, but the PL/TV didn’t have to make or next game the early kick-off game.
    A 2.00pm or 4.30pm kick off is only a 120-270 minutes later but that’s another 120-270 minutes of recovery time which would assist.

  • para

    Something eludes my mind.
    The constant increase of cost.
    This happens for football matches as well as for the basic needs of people, food.

    It is as if money has a life of it’s own and becomes degraded from year to year.
    As we do too, it probably should not be a surprise.

    Yet, we as being supposedly “intelligent” have not managed to dam this cost increase, which is causing all sorts of problems for many.

    It is said that the “running out of resources” is the cause for the increases, but then how come no one is thinking of solutions?
    Unless the desire to eliminate about 2.5 Billion people is seen as a solution?

    Anyway, i and many others will probably not be around to see the results of this constant increase as our degradation forces us to escape from this vessel and take the journey back into the other realms beyond the aetheric plane, which is the doorway.

    I do wonder if our ancestors are congregating regularly to follow the events taking place on this lowest of planes, the material plane, over a bottle or two of what ever substances exist there as sustenance. 🙂

  • Gord

    I know getting exactly the same rest time is not possible. I wouldn’t quibble over an hour or two, here and there. But there is a big difference between Southampton’s 7 days off, and our 2 days off.

    And this isn’t just recovery time. Wenger is almost always, just looking at the next game. So Arsenal have 2 days to prepare for Southampton. Southampton have had 7 days (6 days?) to prepare for Arsenal. Perhaps our players are good enough, that they don’t need 6 days to prepare for Southampton? But it is possible they need more than 2 days. This is an advantage for Southampton.

    The above completely ignores that some games are moved due to weather conditions. Which can lead to fixture congestion. Which can lead to games getting moved. And we always have the TV companies looking to move games to maximize advertising sales.

  • Gord

    Running out of resources is a pretty good excuse, I think some of the time it is probably true. I think there are also occasions where it is just an excuse, and not even a good one.

    Take the local hardware store. At some point in the past, a person in purchasing went looking for suppliers of widgets, and found that ABC Company was the best place to buy them. What typically happens, is that this decision is _never_ revisited. The local hardware store forever buys widgets from ABC Company, or at least until ABC Company no longer exists.

    The local hardware store may have decided that widgets are a seasonable item, and hence they don’t want any widgets in the store until the Nth day of the year, and then they want to receive W widgets which they hope to have all sold in D days. And the local hardware store probably doesn’t put in their order for widgets, until possibly 1 week before they expect to start selling them.

    I may decide that I have a real need for widgets and I can afford to buy widgets well in advance for when I need them, if I can get them at a much better price than the local hardware store is selling them for.

    So, I have 40 bags of soil sitting outside in the snow, because I will need them in the spring time. I wish I had 10-20 bags of peat moss, but I didn’t find them on sale when I found the soil on sale.

    And it bugs me to see LED lightbulbs selling for $25 downtown, when I can find them online for less than $5.

    Living in a “resource” economy also puts strange pressures on costs. The people working in the oil patch are making $30 per hour (or something). So retailers raise their prices to extract the maximum income from the population as a whole. But because the retailers are charging more, all the workers not in the oil patch have their cost of living raised but these higher prices. So the local employers have to pay everybody higher wages, just because the oil patch workers make more money. So now the oil patch has to pay its workers even more money, so that they get the “better employees”. And it feeds on itself.

    And speaking of sustenance, I have some mead to bottle as the yeasties are no longer making carbon dioxide bubbles.

  • porter

    Porter, what was your familys connection to the Arsenal down at Woolwich?

    My grandfather was a blacksmith there at the turn of the century.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Thanks, I asked as many members of my family worked at the Arsenal and one helped start Dial sq. Its changed a lot down that way now.

  • porter

    Haven’t been there for many years now , in fact I only visit London for one reason now and despite being born and bred there I hardly recognise the place. My Dad and my Uncles first took me to Highbury in 1955 being passed down to the front over the heads of the crowd and I still got the buzz when I reached the top step of the North Bank and looked down on the pitch and I stood there for 5 minutes at the end of the Wigan match . Still brings a lump to my throat.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    I can also recall my Grandfather mentioning that people passed the youngsters over everyones heads so they could have a good look back in the pre 60s day. Pretty decent of them.
    I also felt the same at my first game back in the 79/89 season against Ipswich, which we lost, but it was still amazing. I had followed the Arsenal for a year already, but that first glimpse of the pitch and then seeing Pat Jennings warming up was magical. I wonder if its still like that for people now?
    Also amazing to think you saw the North Bank without the roof.

  • porter

    And of course the clock in it’s correct place before the executive boxes started creeping in. I remember Highbury as a true football ground unlike what we have at present which I find to be lacking in many ways.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Me too. I miss Highbury, the new place is great but as you say, somethings missing. All things change, not much we can do I suppose as each generation have their ideas of expansion. Sometimes I wonder if one of capitalisms crime is the selling of the soul(or kind of soul) as it expands? How will the Arsenal look in 60yrs time? Will the current stars be remembered? People seem to be quickly forgotten. As Carrie Fisher said ” fame is obscurity waiting”…
    Talking of the Clock End, I always wondered why the club didnt spend a bob or two and cover that end too?

  • Andy Mack

    Gord, “Wenger is almost always, just looking at the next game”.
    He’s been saying this for well over 15 years (along with many other managers and players), so this really isn’t just about the next game.
    It’s about the PL/FAs historical inability to organise the fixtures in a sensible way and it’s about the ability of the TV companies to be allowed to make illogical changes to those already poorly considered schedules.

  • porter

    I believe the clock end seated 6000 and the north bank 16000 filling the corners and a second tier would have got us to 50000’I often wonder if that was the way to go.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Could have been, as long as they could have squeezed in some boxes one way or another for corporate entertainment. Seems like that was a way the club was keen to go.
    Seems funny to think back that pre Hillsboro,sometimes I would be kicking around on a Saturday morning and then think ” oh Ok I’ll go down to the Arsenal today” and you could just turn up, and the price was ok. No planning, no worrying about a ticket.
    I wonder what happened to the old managers “huts” from Highbury, the ornate ones that seemed too small, and really cramped, I wonder if they were kept somewhere? Funny to think that as part of progress things get dumped and that seems normal and no big deal, then later seems a very big deal.

  • porter

    Nostalgia I suppose.

  • Unfortunately the local council would not allow any change to the skyline in a rebuilding of Highbury.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Thanks Tony.