Obscene’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘massive’ were just a few of the choice words used to describe the Premier League’s new TV deal. Amid great fanfare it was announced Sky and BT Sport will pay a record £5.136bn for live rights for three seasons from 2016/17
That figure represents a 70 per cent increase on Sky and BT’s current £3bn deal and will see 168 games shown live every season. Whatever you think about how much football should be ‘worth’ — that should be a figure decided by the free market after all — it is clear the new deal represents a great opportunity to shape the future of our national sport.
Everyone — not just players and agents — should benefit from such a huge amount of cash being invested into English football. The Premier League said £56m a year has been earmarked for grassroots projects, including 50 artificial pitches. This is to be welcomed, but it is also vital the Premier League does something to address the growing cost of watching live football.
The cheapest ticket to watch West Ham play Chelsea next month is £55 for an adult and, while there are discounts for young adults and children, this is starting to price many families out of the game. This is in part caused by an arms race between clubs to raise as much revenue as possible to best compete in the transfer market. But if children don’t watch live football while they are growing up why can we suddenly start expecting them to attend matches when they have a disposable income?
The average age of a Premier League season ticket holder is now 41 and this figure is rising fast. There is also the argument that the Premier League needs packed crowds to keep the ‘product’ attractive to viewers.
Will people in Asia, Africa or North America really care about watching Stoke v Newcastle if the ground is half empty and there is no atmosphere? The Premier League needs the fans to make it a success – and this new deal is the perfect opportunity to ensure it keeps them for the long-term.