Football Maybe Coming Home but it is Not what it Used to be, Part 2 – Iain Taker

May 22, 2013

Part one of the article looked at the issue of ticket prices and availability. The second part of this article takes a look at the new Premier League television deal and sees whether the fan has got the best deal possible.

Background to new television deal

The new domestic television deal with BSkyB and BT covers 154 games each season for three seasons and will bring in excess of £3bn for the Premier League clubs over the term of the deal.  To put it into context the team finishing bottom in next seasons Premier League will receive more television money than Manchester City did when winning the league last year (£60.6m). Despite the rise in the number of televised games there will once again be a prohibition (for domestic broadcasters) around showing 3pm Saturday kick offs. The logic behind ‘protecting’ 3pm kick offs was to maintain attendances and the atmospheres at grounds. Under the new deal BT Sport will be providing coverage of their Premier League matches to customers of their broadband offerings for free. Such a move is likely to increase further the number of people watching the league and consumers’ appetite to access content via non-traditional routes such as the internet.

Was there another way?

One television deal that has received relatively little news coverage is the Premier League deal in the United States with NBC.  It is not only the biggest in terms of the cost (NBC have paid $250m in comparison to Fox paying $69m for the previous deal) but also for the rights that have been granted.  The deal sees NBC having the rights to show, on all platforms and in English and Spanish, all 380 Premier League Games as well as highlight shows in the style of Match of the Day. They will, from next season, show all ten games live on television on the final day of the season.

This raises an interesting prospect that a fan in the US can watch their team home and away in every game next season but if the same fan was based in the UK they are only able to watch their team in a limited number of games.  Currently each team is paid for a minimum of ten games, although there is no obligation on the broadcaster to show them ten times however.  Therefore fans of less successful teams might in theory be able to watch an additional 30 of their team games on television outside of the UK.  The demand for additional, as well as cheaper, games was recently shown in the Murphy court case where a publican was using foreign decoder box to access live football games.

Any additional revenues from the showing of the additional 226 games could be used to help grassroots and lower league football, which would negate the potential loss of revenue suffered by lower division clubs. It is however very unlikely that the terms of the new television deal will be renegotiated during the term (2013/14-2015/16 seasons) and therefore it is likely that the television deal after this one may increase the available rights to cover all 380 matches.  Potential options would include:

Sale as part of the main package – The number of games included in the existing packages would increase to cover all 380 games. The result of this would likely be that a lower number of separate distributors would purchase the rights so the fan has to pay out to fewer distributors to watch their team week in week out.

Sale as a separate package – A new package (or packages) would be created (possible separated for television, mobile and other digital platforms) to cover these additional matches. The advantage of this option is to enable passionate fans to watch every game while enabling ‘casual’ fans to just purchase the main games packages at a lower cost than option 1.

Sale to the clubs themselves – The clubs themselves could purchase the additional games. Subject to some interesting rights issues that this may create could lead to clubs being able to offer fans a television season ticket to follow their club home and away.

Premier League own television channel – An albeit unlikely option would be for a Premier League television channel which retains the rights to additional games (as occurred in The Dutch Eredivisie from 2009/10).

With clubs increasing their ticket prices (currently only West Brom have announced a decrease in season ticket prices West Ham on the other hand have increased theirs by 16.6% (same as 2010-11 prices) additional television revenues from the options above could help to offset some or all of these increases.


In conclusion the game has moved away from being focused around the match day fan.  While the game is undoubtedly now a business and it is naïve to believe that the match day fan is central to decision making. It is important not to lose sight of what made this game a national pastime. Before important decisions are made the interest of the match day fan should be seriously considered in addition to those of the armchair fan and the clubs themselves.

The future of the game is exciting and it should be shared with the maximum number of fans both current and future.  With the revenues being generated under the new television deal it would be more than possible to lower ticket prices particularly while the economic situation remains difficult.  I firmly believe that the future of the television rights will be to place the fan in a situation where they are able to follow their team in every match.  This would be one way in which a family can actively follow their team in a way that is no longer possible for many due to increased number of midweek games and ticket prices.

Iain Taker is an associate lawyer at Kemp Little LLP (, specialising in commercial contracts, social media and sports law, and is a registered lawyer under the FA Football Agency Regulations.

You can follow him on twitter @iaintaker or on LinkedIn

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