Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Premier League will eat itself

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Yesterday, 10th February 2015, the English Premier League announced the television rights for coverage of its league with Sky Sports and BT together spending £5.14bn deal to screen live football matches. Sky won five of the six packages and will screen 126 games, whereas BT now will screen the Saturday tea time games of which they get 40+ games during the 2016-19 seasons.  Sky could not have anything as that would be a monopoly.

While there has been much hoopla over these figures and much criticism aimed at the Premier League for this 70% hike in rights sold since the last scheme three years ago. The Premier League has become this all encompassing monster where continual television coverage from Sky Sports especially has made us as fans and consumers salivate over the comings and goings of managers from their car to the office. It has made a celebrity out of Kevin Bond's passenger door whilst Harry Redknapp leans out of it to spout more transfer drivel.

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But what will happen with this money? All this wealth should hopefully help out our clubs with the restrictions of the Financial Fair Play system Michel Platini is trying to implement across Europe and maintain our success in European club football.  Yet there is a fear that all this money will mean, is that clubs will spend even more and more extortionate amounts of money on transfer fees, agents fees and player wages.  Perhaps we will see Lionel Messi play in this country if one Barcelona cannot remain sustainable and two, a club can pay him £500,000 a week and remember with him being foreign he would like that after tax so you are looking at a gross weekly salary of £660,00 per week for the maestro.

A lot of people are fearing that none of this money will trickle down to the lower leagues below the Conference Premier and the games this writer referee's at; where pitches are permanently untreated, constantly postponed, facilities are appalling and volunteers run these clubs for the love of the game with nothing in return.  The unfortunate thing is the Premier League, remember, remains a breakaway division which is governed by the Football Association for prosperity, yet the Premier League was created to garner a greater share of television revenue from those willing to pay hence, the Sky Sports era was born and the clubs have never looked back.

None of this £5.14bn will go to the coffers of the FA at Wembley Stadium, so why can people expect it to go into grass roots football. The Premier League is a selfish commodity and in that sense is only concerned with the welfare of its 20 members season to season, yes it looks after the three dismissed members with parachute payments but those clubs will bankrupt themselves by paying over the odds on wages for players they thought were better than they are.  You need only look at Leeds United for evidence of how the mighty have fallen, along with Portsmouth and Sheffield United, two more clubs outside of the Championship.

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It is not in the Premier League's remit to look after grass roots football, that has to look after itself.  Yet it slowly is because 'normal' fans are being priced out of the attending of Premier League games as season ticket prices go ever upwards and matchday single tickets are hitting the £100 threshold. Football is a working class sport built on the tradition of attending on Saturday afternoons with your work pals or with your children.

Now a generation of children cannot attend because in this post-recession world, fathers and mothers cannot afford to take their children to witness football as the cathartic theatrical sonicsphere it is when seen in the flesh. The demographic of attendees is predominantly white, middle aged and middle class, those with disposable income who can afford it currently; this is where people are seeking alternatives such as FC United of Manchester; a fan owned club with a new stadium working at a positive turnover and not beyond its means.  The options are there for fans to go and see these club and if the Premier League clubs do not bring their prices down by the start of the 2016-17 season which coincides with the launch of this new deal, fans may well vote with their feet.  In some cases they already are, the Etihad at Manchester last week had small pockets of empty seats visible on television coverage.

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Another thing to be addressed is how will Sky pay for this buy passing on the price to the subscriber now they will no doubt create another channel dedicated to GPS movements of players during games along with heat maps and touch profiles; all for under £20 a month. Yet it is the business outlets who will have to pay more especially those in London where business outlets are based on your business rates paid to local councils; currently in London you will pay upwards of £1000 a month for your subscription.  This will more than likely be going up due to this new pay deal. And don't forget BT have exclusive Champions League rights from next season, so businesses will have to pay two subscriptions for two must have products.

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And nothing seems to have been mentioned about this Friday night window for games; with it being new and unique Sky will no doubt program probably the best game for the wow factor initially but you get the sense that teams playing in the Champions League on a Tuesday will more than likely want to play on a Friday night to get the full weekend off as preparation, and players prefer playing on an evening than Saturday afternoon (ask Arsenal); so Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal fans should get used to only seeing their side play at home on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm a handful of times in a season. 

Let us not forget the social ramifications of a live Friday night match on Sky Television who have flirted with the window before for Championship football to no avail. There will be a few weeks during the season when there will be live football on everyday of the week, for social reasons it is unreasonable to expect people to be out every night not to forget the implication and effect this will have on individual's home life where football and nothing else is on the television, with parents neglecting the treatment of their children and welfare of a stable home unit.

Nevermind the fact that in this day and age of constant media attention, the press media is slowly dying and it is sad to hear that on the day the Premier League records a record television deal, journalists and established ones are being made redundant at the Daily Express, including a friend John Dillon, who has seen the changes of the Premier League happen first hand. Now his voice of experience is considered no longer necessary nor deserving of a daily platform.  In a world of nonsense where little facets of information are declared fact, the art and act of journalism is being lost to the digital age of vines and memes - odd that considering the Premier League is so me me me.

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There is probably more bad than good about this deal, but frankly with all the money coming in with these astronomical figures bounding about, why should Richard Scudamore care what you think about the deal. He's just sorted out his pension, and in business you are always out to look after number one.

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