One of the biggest sources of complaints to the FSA’s public inbox is the total disregard the leagues and broadcasters have for match-going fans when scheduling games.
In the latest TV package, more than half of the Premier League’s 380 games are moved from the traditional Saturday afternoon slot for TV broadcast.
Similarly, Sky Sports’ five-year deal with the EFL sees 138 games moved for broadcast, with the option to increase that to 158 in the final two years of the contract.
This all adds up to a boatload of inconvenience for fans trying to plan their travel to games – more time off work, bookings cancelled, deposits lost, and travel during unsociable hours.
Before the start of the season the Premier League publishes a list of dates whereby they’ll announce upcoming TV fixture changes. And, to no-one’s great surprise, they consistently missed their own targets during 2021-22.
With neither clubs, the Premier League or broadcasters stepping up to take responsibility for the delays, the FSA has been pushing the powers-that-be for answers.
In September 2021, the FSA and supporter representatives from across the Premier League met with its chief executive Richard Masters to discuss issues impacting fans – and the TV picks were a hot topic.
Masters apologised to supporter reps for the delay to this year’s festive TV selections and said the league would be working harder to make sure their target for the December selections was met. Spoiler: it wasn’t.
In that meeting with fans, Masters also promised greater communication with supporters if delays to the announcements were likely, but supporters were left pretty much in the dark as to which fixtures caused the delay and exactly why. It’s a sorry story that has gone on for years.
In 2021 the BBC and Sky Sports announced a new deal with the FA which sees more women’s football on TV than ever before – and a great deal of access to highlights and live games via the FA Player app.
More than sixty games broadcast live per season on TV thanks to the £7m deal. Revenues are key to growing the women’s game and FA director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons, called the deal “transformational”.
While investment is critical, supporters’ groups are well aware of the challenges it brings too. More eyeballs are welcome but can those TV viewers be converted into matchgoers? What is the balance to be struck between maximising broadcast deals but ensuring match-going fans don’t pay the price for that.
We know all-too-well from the men’s game that once clubs get a taste of that TV money, they’re happy to sell out their own fans. Repeatedly. It’s already an issue in the women’s game too.
What does the FSA think?
We believe there should be a 12-week minimum notice period for league games so that fans can book time off work and have the best access to affordable rail tickets or other public transport options.
The football industry should revive talks with rail operating companies to introduce flexible football tickets which are tied to fixtures, rather than specific dates, meaning fans can book affordable travel in advance, with peace of mind.
Late changes to kick-off times also means more fans travelling via cars, as public transport might not be available, which undermines aims to reduce the game’s environmental impact.
The FSA has recently partnered with Pledgeball, an organisation that rallies football fans to help tackle the developing climate crisis, and we’d encourage supporters groups across the game to get involved.
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