I get altitude sickness at Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Chesterfield FC and Mansfield Town games having chosen to cover The Conference Premier and Conference North. Like the Manchester City fans last night I have been priced out having moved up to Lincoln as a lifestyle choice. So the two £1250 a year Arsenal season tickets and the jokes of co-season ticket holders Alan Davies and Ian Stone just had to go. Before the rant of sorts, a quick good luck to the promotion chances of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Chesterfield FC and their fabulous fans who are doing well in-spite of, as opposed to because of, all that TV cash. It could all change for the better, even the playing field so to speak, if Virgin’s complaint to Ofcom is taken seriously? Then again pigs could fly.
Thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Most of us now know that Ofcom, among other things the broadcasting regulator, looks set to open an investigation into how the Premier League sells the TV rights to its live matches. This is at the request of Virgin Media who claim the practice is driving up consumer prices. Ofcom is taking the matter seriously and will give a decision in 8 weeks. So the fan is a consumer to champion once again as opposed to a sheep that is sheered each and every year by the people’s game.
A change in the bidding process would have huge implications on the game from the top to the bottom of the pyramid. Currently, on an annual basis, £340m goes to youth development with another £23 million directly to grass roots. The Footy Bingo grass roots article yesterday shows how Greg Dyke is spearheading what has already had a staggering nine figure impact on the game CLICK ME.
Both sides will have strong arguments, not to mention that previously mentioned grass roots programme that could well be a fantastic legacy for proactive FA Chairman Greg Dyke (£1.2 bn raised for grass roots so far). Further the Premier League do operate fair, transparent and open process when it comes to the auction of its audio-visual rights. Previous investigations by UK and European busy-bodies have found everything to be in order and compliant with UK and European competition legislation.
Virgin rightly argue that we Brits pay the highest prices in Europe to watch football on TV. The real crux of it you feel is that Virgin has to buy its own rights from BSkyB and BT. It will not be bidding in the process later in the year for a slice of the pie for 2016 onwards. Therefore they have to pay higher so we pay higher which ups the price. Perhaps, but, in a free market those of us with BT Broadband can get a good chunk of live games free as well as seeing the Conference games to boot. Were it not for my football writing I would be round at a mates watching the Arsenal games because zero hour contracts have to support a football writers income nowadays. He, a pensioner, is with Virgin and pays over a hundred a month for the privilege of receiving his broadband, telephone and TV from them.
From a purely and somewhat economic theory based point of view it is about supply and demand and, what plagues the failing capitalist economy as a whole. Fairness is the least concern of big business where patents, rights and big money will guarantee an income flow for institutions and shareholders. Aside the odd spat with toothless and underfunded regulators, this is the way directors ensure they keep their bonuses and snouts in the golden troughs. We are consumers when it suits and at best sheep, or the cahless are of no consequence, the rest of the time. The Premiership have a monopoly as a collective bargaining power, with the carve up going to BSkyB and BT who can post the anti. Virgin, ITV and even the BBC cannot justify paying the lump sums on their balance sheets.
Supply and demand is also used for the high price in going to games. Again it is greed based just adding to the ‘cream’ over here while in Germany tickets are a fraction of the UK. We also top the pile across the rest of Europe by a country mile. This superb article from the Guardian is as good a case for the consumer’s defence as I have come across CLICK ME. The three percent increase in season tickets at Arsenal (had one for 14 years) amounted to a fraction of their income. Clearly an US owner taking out a similar amount was purely coincidence of course. Aside the Football Supporters federation no one is championing Twenty is plenty are they? Granted, this is for away tickets, although it would have an impact on the home prices in corresponding areas.
Andy Savage, who runs the website MCFCForum.com, got it spot on in his twitter spat with Rio Ferdinand over the price disgrace and the empty seats at City’s European game against Roma last night.
“I took Rio Ferdinand to task on Twitter. He was taking the mickey out of the empty seats at the Etihad last night. He is living in his own bubble there. Some people are living hand to mouth and don’t know where the next penny is coming from, and he’s criticising them for not filling the stadium when the tickets are £35-plus.
“He was an absolute disgrace on Twitter, as was Scholes on ITV. They are multi-millionaires. They don’t give the man on the street a second thought, how much it is costing people. The cost of living is going up, so many people are out of work. Football is not everyone’s priority, like it used to be. People just can’t afford, over the course of the month, to pay for tickets three, four or five times.
“I took Ferdinand to task, and not because he is an ex-United player. He’s got an autobiography coming out. I’m sure he’s not giving that away. I’m sure he’s not joined QPR for the love it. He’ll be getting a substantial salary. Perhaps it will hit home next year if QPR have to put their prices up and they won’t be able to fill their stadium. It really wound me up last night.”
So is there any end to the golden rails on the inevitably downward staircase of greed? Not from a regulator point of view you feel although the Lords of the manor will inevitably shoot themselves in the foot one day (perhaps the inevitable interest rate rises will not help either). The last round increased the overall receipts of the Premier League to £5.5 Bn if we include the international carve up or £3Bn domestic (up from £3.3BN for all in the last carve up) suggesting the rights have yet to plateau. When the music stops the transfer and wage inflation will catch up with them all. Until then it is open season with perhaps next summer seeing £1 billion spent in the window. For anything or anyone to actually get in the way of big business is a flight of fantasy. Can anyone picture a herd of flying pigs?