By Tony Attwood
As matters stand, in something like 160 Premier League games in the early part of this season there will be no live TV coverage and no chance of anyone paying to go to the ground to watch the game. These are the games that fall outside the pick of Sky, Amazon and BT Sprout – the normal collection of games that are not shown at times other than 3pm Saturday.
It appears from comments in the newspapers that the reason for the blackout is entirely that of the clubs – they have the option of allowing the BBC to show the games (obviously on free to air since the BBC doesn’t do encrypted programming), but have turned it down. It appears the BBC would be very happy to take on the duty.
So this week, after some pressure, the clubs are going to vote on whether they will allow the BBC to take up matches that are not being sold to Sky and Sprout. Thus far all they have agreed to do is to have a new meeting to discuss this, nothing more, but at least they will be doing so having seen the pressure from all quarters other than Sky and Sprout.
Of course this won’t affect Arsenal immediately since our opening games have already been designated TV games. The Fulham game has been moved to 1230 on this coming Saturday, and then the home game against West Ham will be on Sky on Sunday 20 September at 2pm.
Our third game is the League Cup match away to Leicester, which could give us a chance to see Leicester’s response to the change in tactics away from the remorseless tackling (safe in the knowledge of no cards being given). However the date for this is not yet confirmed. It could be anything from September 21 to September 24 – depending on the TV decision.
Then it is Liverpool! away on Monday 28th September at 8pm. All of which means the first Saturday scheduled game is Sheffield United at home on 3rd October. Thereafter no decisions have been made at all about scheduling.
The broadcasters showed they were ready to take up the mantle when football returned for the final part of last season. At that stage the government told the League that they had to arrange for broadcasting of matches in the public interest (part of which was to avoid people gathering at grounds when matches were on but not being broadcast).
I should add however that Arsenal are continuing the radio style commentary on Arsenal.com and that should be covering all matches irrespective of whatever TV deal is made.
The earlier arrangement for the end of last season was directly as a result of government intervention, but the government seems to have lost all interest in football now, and is letting the League do its own thing.
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But it is said that the BBC were unhappy that the fact that every game was on TV was affecting the rating for their Match of the Day programmes, although I find it hard to see how this will particularly worry them. The Corporation is under attack from the government which is thinking of removing its special position in British society, and making it a subscription service, so it has other things to consider.
Of course not every match would go to the BBC. The games already selected for broadcast by Sky and the Sprout will stay with them, and they might well be awarded some more – as indeed might be Amazon. Some commentators such as the Telegraph have suggested that if the extra games are made available Sky would get half a dozen or so, Sprout two or three, with Amazon and the BBC getting one each.
A possible split would see Sky awarded six or seven, BT two or three and Amazon and the BBC one each. Another option would be for the clubs to show the games on their own websites – which I imagine the clubs would like, but they would need one of the main broadcasters to help them out.
Anything going on Sky could be available for £10 just to watch that match, via Now TV although I had great difficulty getting their system to work, and their approach to my subsequent complaints was rated in my household at minus 35 on a scale of 1 to 10.
But awful though that service was it was better than the Sprout’s refusal to allow anyone just to buy in to their terrible coverage of individual matches. With them it is an annual subscription or nothing at all.
Of course TV’s coverage of Premier League matches is highly sanitised with the League having imposed all sorts of regulations concerning what can and can’t be shown, and prohibiting open questioning of referees’ ability, or the repeated use of the same referee in one club’s games (as happened with Liverpool! last season). The League will go to any length to ensure that PGMO does not become the focus, although our modest efforts at pointing out the oddities in Leicester’s behaviour last season has made a little impact I’m pleased to say.
For the History of Arsenal and the daily Arsenal video of a great historic match you might enjoy the daily blog of the Arsenal History Society
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