By Tony Attwood
As the new season approaches we now learn that a whole raft of matches are not going to be seen by any fans at all. None in the ground, none able to watch on TV.
Now that might not affect Arsenal too much, because the media will normally pick up our matches for live broadcast when they have a chance, but spare a moment to consider some of the mid- and lower- ranking clubs. They will have matches where no one is going to be allowed in the ground, and the match is not going to be on TV.
This is according to commentaries in both the Mail and the Telegraph, both of course (as ever) carrying the big EXCLUSIVE label. I rather prefer the Mail’s version: “Exclusive Premier League facing fan backlash as 160 matches set to be untelevised next season” because it does focus on the fact that maybe some fans will at last rise up and tell the Premier League and Sky and the utterly appalling BT Sprout, that this is not acceptable.
(Incidentally I don’t think “untelevised” is actually a word, but the Mail, like the Times in Orwell’s “1984” likes to invent new words. We will probably see a bad match soon described as “ungood”.)
As things stand, according to the various newspaper commentaries, once the government allow restrictions to ease, the clubs will be able to have crowds of between 10,000 and 25,000 back for each game. Which will mean that even season ticket holders won’t be able to go to all the matches. Details of how those of us who renewed our tickets for Arsenal will be allocated games are expected in a couple of days.
And whoever goes, at least some people will be there, able to watch the game, and if they wish, able to comment on radio phone ins and on blogs.
Yet with lots of the matches not having any TV coverage at all – not even on the Sprout channel without a clue – we will have no chance to have our own independent views on what really happened. All we’ll have is the commentary in the newspapers and the one minute round up from radio stations.
So presumably all the referee decisions will be fair and square, and Arsenal will have played badly.
The Mail’s take is “Premier League clubs risk wrath of their own fans as they price themselves out of a deal to air EVERY match live until stadiums return to full capacity after demanding additional fees for extra TV games.”
Well yes I do hope some wrath is felt. As it is “Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon will show an extra 20 matches next season, however, Sportsmail understands there was interest to show even more games.”
The Mail tells us that the talks to cover all games, never got going as the clubs wanted extra money for extra games. A comment I heard was that the TV companies feel they already have given a huge amount by the way they eased off on the claim for compensation after the last season’s contracts fell apart because of the virus.
The three TV operations are still tied into deals for the next three seasons, and there is no telling what will happen with the virus, local lock downs and the rest.
The latest thinking is that we’ll be allowed back into grounds from 3 October, with access for season ticket holders rotating. The clubs feel that by giving the TV companies 20 games more without any request for extra money, they were making a good offer, and that the companies would then pay more to broadcast the rest.
The only good thing that has come out of the deal is that the discussion about the clubs having to pay money back to the TV companies has now been dropped. Sky has been given £330m by the clubs to be paid across two seasons, to compensate for the lockdown… something that no one on the clubs’ side ever thought to put into the contract. (Maybe the first move ought to be to kick out the negotiation team).
According to the reports there won’t be any games at 3pm on saturday, although that absolute prohibition has been removed.
What a total cock-up.
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