Gravy train...

JOHN WRAGG ex­plains why there could be dan­ger ahead for the mega-bucks Premier League…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Is game go­ing to hit the buf­fers?

IS THE mas­sive foot­ball gravy train start­ing to hit the buf­fers? Sky TV are feel­ing the pinch - they have been shed­ding jobs and re­branded their chan­nels. Why? To save money.

Not so many peo­ple are watch­ing the foot­ball any­more.

Romelu Lukaku at £75m to Manch­ester United, Kyle Walker a few miles away at City for £50m. These mam­moth, some would ar­gue ob­scene, trans­fers are fi­nanced by TV money. In other words, our monthly sub­scrip­tion to Sky and BT. And we are can­celling. Sky’s rat­ings fell by 14 per cent last sea­son and the Cham­pi­ons League on BT plunged by as much as 40 per cent for some games.

That stag­ger­ing £5.14 bil­lion Sky and BT paid be­tween them for the cur­rent Premier League deal is start­ing to look like a huge noose around their necks.

This new Premier League sea­son that has just kicked off is the sec­ond year of the deal. When they start talk­ing about new con­tracts, the TV com­pa­nies will surely be look­ing to pay less.

There is a pos­si­bil­ity that foot­ball could be shown by Face­book or Twit­ter in the near fu­ture, adding to the pres­sure on Sky and BT.

If Fan­tas­tic Fri­day, Su­per Sun­day, Marvel­lous Mon­day and all the other hype fails to pull in the pun­ters, then maybe our foot­ball might be forced back into the real world.

Bar­ney Fran­cis, Sky Sports’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, paid £4.2 bil­lion, 83 per cent more than the pre­vi­ous deal, or a stag­ger­ing £11m per game.

Si­mon Green, head of BT Sport, picked up the rest of the tab, plus an­other £1 bil­lion for the Cham­pi­ons League.

But they are get­ting their fin­gers burned.

Peo­ple aren’t daft. They’ve started look­ing at cheaper ways of watch­ing their foot­ball.

The money isn’t stream­ing in any­more. It’s be­ing streamed off.

There is a rise in the cheaper stream­ing of­fered by Net­flix and Ama­zon. A fee of £8 and change from a ten­ner for a game is a lot dif­fer­ent to the £49.50 Sky were ask­ing for a pay-TV pack­age.

Now with Sky 1, 2, 3 etc gone, you could get it for £18 on the ded­i­cated Premier League chan­nel.

Big clubs Aston Villa and New­cas­tle drop­ping out of the Premier League with their huge fan base ready to put their hands in their pocket has been given as part of the rea­son for the plunge in view­er­ship.

That’s a good point. New­cas­tle are now back while Villa wal­low about spend­ing para­chute pay­ments on trans­fers and wages to try and find a re­turn.

But just look at who plays in the Premier League now. There’s a clue in the ti­tle here. This is the Premier League, the cream, top of the bill – and in it are Bournemouth, Brighton, Burn­ley, Crys­tal Palace, Hud­der­s­field, Le­ices­ter, Stoke, Southamp­ton, Wat­ford and West Brom. You are not go­ing to get the wife to give up Corona­tion Street on a Mag­nif­i­cent Mon­day night to watch that, are you? It’s the stars, Manch­ester United, Manch­ester City, Chelsea, Spurs, Ar­se­nal and Liver­pool who pull ‘em in. Europa League view­ing - a bit like The One Show in its ap­peal - was up last sea­son. Why? Man United were in it. The su­per­star clubs know it’s them that pull in the view­ers. There are al­ready big rum­blings about go­ing it alone with their TV money. As the stars, they’re no doubt say­ing, why should we give money to the sup­port acts? Even Derby are talk­ing about it. There’s an­other topic be­ing talked about in the big chairs in ex­ec­u­tive of­fices. No rel­e­ga­tion. The fran­chises in Amer­i­can sport don’t have to fear it, why should we? Get the big clubs up out of the Cham­pi­onship like Leeds, Villa, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, Sun­der­land, Derby, Not­ting­ham For­est, maybe Wolves. Get Rangers and Celtic down from Scot­land. Then shut the door. You don’t leave the doors of a bank open all day, do you? This is the bank of the Premier League, such riches. Com­pe­ti­tion would die, of course. The Premier League, or what­ever fancy new ti­tle it might get, would be­come bor­ing rep­e­ti­tion, as bad as the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League, where you play for months be­fore the teams you knew would make it any­way qual­ify. The Cham­pi­ons League group stage was in­vented to make money, the Premier League the same. Ru­pert Mur­doch took a gam­ble on foot­ball res­cu­ing Sky TV 26 years ago. Orig­i­nally, the plan was for big films to bring in the money. Now, with Mur­doch’s money, foot­ballers are the mod­ern film stars. Early rat­ings last sea­son for live Premier League games on Sky were down 19 per cent. If they are down again this sea­son, look out for panic. And not just the TV execs. You can bet that all those foot­ballers from Spain, Italy, France, Ger­many, the whole

United Na­tions lot of them, who said they al­ways wanted to play in Eng­land be­cause the Premier League is the best in the world, will be look­ing at pay pack­ets that no longer bulge like a dou­ble burger whop­per and head back home.

It might be no bad thing. It might give us our game back.

With the ma­jor­ity of those av­er­age for­eign­ers gone, we might get back to play­ers in our teams that we recog­nise, can spell and pro­nounce.

We might get back to hav­ing our own lo­cal heroes.

When Ox­ford United of League One ap­point Pep Clotet as their man­ager rather than give a Bri­tish coach a break, you have to won­der whether it has all gone too far.

Pubs have been asked to pay more now so that Sky and BT can get a de­cent buck from their bil­lions of bang. It costs an av­er­age pub around £20,000 a year for pun­ters to buy a pint or three and watch Sky or BT.

Sky put up their prices to pubs by ten per cent last sum­mer and BT by nearly nine per cent. They did that be­cause they couldn’t risk up­ping the in­di­vid­ual pack­ages to homes.

The irony is that for years the Premier League has been try­ing to stop pubs show­ing ‘pi­rate’ cov­er­age of games from abroad and at­tempted to stop il­le­gal stream­ing at source.

Now, you can ei­ther go le­git via Net­flix or Ama­zon or go DIY. Most homes in Bri­tain have speedy enough wi-fi to down­load what you want off the in­ter­net.

It’s jolly for Roger but a night­mare for Mur­doch.

Sky tv are feel­ing the pinch. They have been shed­ding jobs and re­branded their chan­nels. Why? to save money. Not so many peo­ple are watch­ing the foot­ball any more

Big switch: Kyle Walker left Tot­ten­ham for Man City in a £50m deal On the move: Romelu Lukaku joined Manch­ester United from Ever­ton for an ini­tial £75m

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