First Touch

Television And The Premier League

Apologies for the fact that once again, in part at least, we delve into the relationship between television and the Premier League this week but delve we must for we are entering into territory where it is impacting ever more on the most important relationship of all – between fans and club.

By Dave Bowler
dave bowler logo for premier league article

We haven’t even got to the stage of Friday night football for the top flight yet, but the signs are there that supporters in England are getting genuinely tired of the way in which fixtures are being forever rearranged. That’s particularly so at this time of the season when they are shifted at late notice to suit the changing nature of the league table, often long after supporters have made their plans, booked train tickets and so on.

Put that hand in hand with the on-going revolt over hefty ticket prices and you have a situation that, as far as social media goes anyway, is in ferment. The twittersphere is busily melting down, spewing bile and venom at Sky, at the Premier League at their clubs.

All of which is all very well, but when are they gong to do anything about it?

To paraphrase the pacifist refrain of the late ‘60s, it’s time to test out an important question – what if they held a game and nobody came? Because here’s the thing. The powers that be really don’t care if people are screaming, shouting, moaning and groaning, just as long as they continue to hand the money over.

You can complain all you like, but while the cash tills are ringing out their pretty song, ain’t nothing going to change. All the while supporters keep ambling to the games like sheep, don’t be surprised to see Rupert Murdoch and Richard Scudamore buying in more and more mint sauce with which to better enjoy it.

The only point at which they might start to question just what it is that they are doing to the game is when gaps start to appear in the crowds. That’s not because they are dependent upon the money from the turnstiles because they’re not, not in this world where the amounts of money that pour in from domestic and world television rights simply dwarf them.


But those television rights are based upon the Premier League serving up a spectacle. And a huge chunk of that spectacle comes from the stands, from the rawness, from the sound and the fury that English football crowds generate.

Face it, man for man, you’re better off watching Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Juventus than the bulk of the Premier League. But what the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A don’t have that the Premier League does is a crackling atmospheres at virtually every fixture, even involving the more minor outfits.

Truth be told, the unique selling point that the Premier League has, the one that has elevated it above the rest these last 20 years, is the crowds, is the atmosphere they generate, the drive that creates some pretty exciting, if often technically inept, football.

The secret the Premier League doesn’t want the supporters to know is that they are the show, not the footballers. Because once the supporters realise just where the power really lies – with them – then all bets are off.

So if England’s football fans really want to send prices scurrying downwards, they know what they have to do. Stay home for a few weeks. Then watch Murdoch put the squeeze on Scudamore and Scudamore put the squeeze in the accountants. It really won’t take long.

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