Record Premier League TV deal is great news for armchair supporters... but more needs to be done to help match-going fans

Sky Sports
Sky Sports will broadcast 215 Premier League games each season from 2025 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Congratulations to Richard Masters and the Premier League in securing a four per cent rise in the next round of domestic TV rights and good news for the armchair fans who will now be able to watch more football than ever before with 70 per cent of all Premier League games set to be broadcast domestically from 2025.

But where does it leave the match going fans? If 267 of the 380 Premier League games in a season are broadcast on Sky Sports and TNT Sport and Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes (also known as the 3pm blackout) remains in place, then there will be just 113 games taking place at 3pm on a Saturday.

That makes life very difficult for the travelling fans with kick-off times ranging from Friday night through to Monday night and all sorts of times on Saturdays and Sundays and puts all the power of kick-off times in the hands of the broadcasters.

TNT

TNT Sport will continue to show Saturday games at 12.30pm as part of their 52 games each season (Image credit: Getty Images)

We saw during lockdown how bad the games were with no fans and a lack of atmosphere so it is up to the clubs and broadcasters to remember that and ensure match-going fans are still appreciated. 

In his statement after the new broadcast deal - worth £6.7billion between 2025 and 2029 - was announced, Premier League chief executive Masters said: “The outcome of this process underlines the strength of the Premier League and is testament to our clubs, players and managers who continue to deliver the world’s most competitive football in full stadiums, and to supporters, who create an unrivalled atmosphere every week.”

But with more and more games kicking off at unsociable hours ‘full stadiums’ and ‘an unrivalled atmosphere’ should not be taken for granted.

For example, this weekend Burnley travel to Brighton for a 3pm kick off, which is a near 600-mile round trip anyway, but if that game is moved to any of the TV slots over a weekend then it becomes much harder for those travelling fans to make without adding on the extra expense of a hotel on top of soaring train fares or rising petrol prices.

It does feel like the match-going fans play a huge role in helping the Premier League be the lucrative product that it is and the envy of leagues around the world, but very little is being done to safeguard them.

Chelsea

You don't have to go back too far to remember what football was like with no atmosphere during the Covid-19 lockdown (Image credit: Getty Images)

Two potential solutions would be to use the extra revenue created from the TV money to put a cap on ticket prices to make going to the match as affordable as possible to as many people as possible.

The cap on away ticket prices, which was introduced in 2016/17, and meant that every away ticket is sold for £30 has proved a success. Why not introduce a similar thing for home fans? Clubs are not as reliant on gate receipts as they once were with these new TV deals, so help protect that income by introducing a cap on ticket prices for home fans - say £40 and in doing so help protect the full stadiums and atmosphere.

The other, slightly more radical idea, and one that would not be able to come in until the end of this new TV deal, would be to scrap Article 48 and end the 3pm blackout. That would then encourage streaming platforms such as Apple TV and DAZN to enter the market by offering season passes and there is sure to be room for traditional satellite broadcasters such as Sky and TNT to offer a similar service to what they currently offer - but it in theory means more games can be played at the traditional 3pm slot.

Fans

Fans protested the last TV deal back in 2015  (Image credit: Getty Images)

This would obviously be controversial as Article 48 is there to protect attendances down the football pyramid, with the fear being that if football was televised between 2.45pm and 5.15pm then fewer people would go and watch their local non-league team on a Saturday afternoon when their team is playing away. While this is a nice idea, how many fans actually go and watch another team if their team is away?

I have long been a supporter of the blackout and believed it did protect the football pyramid. But with the new EFL broadcast deal set to come in at the start of next season with 1000 matches set to be broadcast by Sky Sports across the Championship, League One and League Two, it feels more and more that games will be shown on TV and the only people the blackout actually hurts are the match-going fans.

Broadcasters are not going anywhere and if the blackout is not removed, the fear would be that the 30 per cent of Premier League games that are due to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday would become less and less: forcing fans to travel at more unsociable times.

The clubs and the broadcasters need to think of the match-going fans before it is too late and they vote with their feet.

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