Words By Max Kilham and Charlie Batten
The Premier League have announced a new pay-per-view scheme which will see fans having to pay £14.95 to watch their team if they are not a part of the live scheduling.
A move that has been widely ridiculed across the media, but Premier League clubs voted 19-1 in favour of the scheme, with Leicester City being the only club to vote against.
It is well known that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive financial losses across the board; from the Premier League to the bottom tiers of the Football League. Recently, there have been calls for Premier League clubs to financially support lower league teams to prevent mass club extinction.
However, the simple truth is that the financial muscle of the Premier League and its clubs should not need a near 15-pound payment, despite the current climate.
A total of £1.26 billion was spent on transfers by Premier League clubs in the last window. An extortionate amount considering the current financial climate. Extorting from the fans to watch games from home seems therefore farcical. Fans who currently have Sky Sports or BT Sport subscriptions may be unable to watch their team play, resulting in a further payment on top of their subscriptions.
You can’t fault the Premier League for trying. If the clubs are happy to do so, from a financial standpoint, it makes sense to provide incentives to garner extra revenue in the midst of financial uncertainty.
However, the fans are what makes football so special. Football just isn’t the same without them. No longer are we able to hear the fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ or ‘Take me Home United Road’ before a game. No longer do we hear the roar when a goal is scored or the sudden quiet when a goal is conceded.
The fans have suffered long enough during this pandemic and this announcement has served to add salt to the wound.
At lower league level, clubs are implementing similar policies. For example, League 2 club Exeter City are charging £10 to watch a live match. There seems to be a slight discrepancy at play here. A club with significantly less financial muscle is charging less to watch their games than some of the richest clubs on the planet. Yes, the quality of the product on the pitch is better in the Premier League, but clubs like Exeter City need financial support to a greater extent than those in the Premier League, that much is clear. This pay-per-view charge seems almost baffling in this context.
What we’re starting to see is an era where fans are being forgotten about and Premier League clubs are focusing more on their profits and power. This can be seen with the little things such as Arsenal sacking their mascot Gunnersaurus whilst the day after signing a player for £45 million, and it can be seen on a larger scale with Project Big Picture (PBP).
PBP has been created by Liverpool and backed by Manchester United as a way of giving more power to the more established teams. As it stands each Premier League side has one vote when it comes to making changes to the game. PBP wants more power to the clubs that have been in the league the longest which would mean the top 6 would have more control as well as Everton, Southampton, and West Ham. It would also change how many votes are needed to pass a rule as only 6 of the established 9 teams would need to vote the same way for a proposal to pass. It also suggests lowering the league to 18 teams and 16th place having a playoff with a championship side to see who gets relegated.
One of the problems with this proposal is that decisions could be made simply to make more money rather than for the good of the game. Due to the top 6 never having to worry about relegation they spend more time focusing on profits and how to increase them so if a proposal is put forward that would benefit them financially rather than the other 14 teams in the league they can approve it all by themselves.
Since the Premier Leagues inception, we’ve seen football as a sport become more commercialised and money become a huge factor on how successful the game is. The pay-per-view scheme and PBP are simply another step into football selling its soul and it’s paramount it doesn’t happen or football can change for the worse, forever.