Premier League faces fans’ revolt over TV block on 160 live games
Football fans will be blocked from watching 160 Premier League games on television next season – despite being currently banned from attending matches during the coronavirus crisis.
The Government and Premier League are facing a major supporter revolt after it was confirmed that more than 40 per cent of the 2020-21 matches will not be shown live in the UK.
The publication of next season’s fixtures yesterday included the announcement that more matches than ever would be broadcast domestically – 220 – but there was no provision made for the campaign starting behind closed doors or for the prospect of capped attendances for much of the remainder.
The Government ordered the Premier League to show every fixture of Project Restart live after spectators were banned from games under lockdown, and supporters’ groups yesterday warned that a refusal to maintain that policy was “a major, major problem” and would drive some to illegal streams.
The potential lack of access to more than two-fifths of games was raised during a meeting between the Premier League and representatives of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) on Wednesday. Among those in attendance was Katrina Law, head of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, who has also served on the Football Association council.
The trust’s co-chair said: “Fans are expecting – probably quite
rightly – the same broadcast coverage that we had through Project Restart.
“I don’t think the penny has dropped. And I think that is going to be a major, major problem.
“Match-going fans are absolutely going to expect fair broadcast access to games that they’re prevented from attending for public health and safety reasons.”
Fans of English Football League clubs have been able to stream their teams’ matches live for the past three seasons and Law said: “It would only be match-going fans in the Premier League in the UK who would be deprived of watching their team. Unless, of course, the
Premier League and the broadcasters want to encourage us all to stream illegally.”
Law said she did not know who was “blocking” the transmission of all behind-closed-doors games.
“I would have thought the decision came down to the broadcasters, but I’m sure the final decision would come down to money,” she said.
A third of matches under Project Restart were shown free to air but Law said a substantial number of fans would be prepared to pay an “accessible amount” to watch additional games next season.
Her sentiments were echoed by Dave Pennington, vice-chair of the Manchester United Supporters
Trust who, like Law, is also an FSA national council representative.
Pennington said the Premier League should also consider guaranteeing season-ticket holders access to live coverage of their teams’ games until stadiums were back to full capacity, adding that to do otherwise would be a double-whammy for those unable to attend because of capped attendances.
Law said: “We’d just ask that the broadcasters, the Premier League and the clubs all got round the table and discussed this in the best interests of fans who are all of their customers and consumers. It’ll be very short-sighted for them not to allow fans to watch their teams.”
The Premier League declined to comment beyond a statement in yesterday’s fixtures announcement that it was “committed to getting fans back into full stadia as soon as possible”.
Those fixtures have Liverpool hosting Leeds United on the opening day of the season on Sept 12.
Manchester United and Manchester City will kick off the following weekend at home to Crystal Palace and away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, in a delayed start because of their European exploits, while Chelsea and Wolves will each begin their season on Monday, Sept 14 at Brighton & Hove Albion and Sheffield United respectively, after their Europa League run.