Watching The Premiership From Afar

 by Martin Belam, 28 September 2005

There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks about whether the Premiership has become boring now that the title has effectively been purchased by one of Russia's energy oligarchs, and why attendances have fallen. The press have been focussing on the price of tickets, the perceived entertainment value, and the number of matches on television.

I've not seen anywhere in the debate though the rise of viewing the Premiership on a Saturday afternoon via international television channels.

This weekend just gone I watched West Ham versus Arsenal with my dad in a bar near where I live. To have gone to the game would have cost us around £80. Instead we watched the match on a big screen with around 250 other fans. Firstly the atmosphere was better than being at a match because the people in the bar weren't segregated by team, so lots of good-humoured (and not so good-humoured) banter ran through the crowd.

Secondly we could have a drink of beer whilst we were watching the game. This is a stark contrast to going to a match. At QPR the other week, I could buy beer, but not drink it within sight of the pitch. Which meant I missed the last five minutes of the first half as I dashed along with another hundred fans to get over-priced beer and food from a catering outlet that only had two staff serving, and then had to drink my beer in 15 minutes before I could take my seat back to watch a game I had paid nearly £30 for the privilege to attend.

Richard Scudamore Premier League chief executive is quoted as saying that:

I do not think there should be criticism of TV. It is the rocket fuel that sent the Premier League into the stratosphere - 106 games in the last deal was about right, 138 might be at the high end.

That simply isn't counting the games shown over-and-above the existing TV deal. At least four bars near me show football on Saturday afternoons, broadcast by a variety of Greek, Arabic and African channels. Some of them even offer different screens showing a choice of matches. I know where I would rather spend my time and money on a Saturday afternoon.

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