On Wednesday 2nd November a number of top-flight fan representatives met with members of the team at Sky Sports who work across football coverage and fixture scheduling. It is hoped that this is the first of many meetings between match-going fans and broadcasters.
The group are building on the discussions at the Premier League Structured Dialogue meeting with fans, which took place in July, organised by the Football Supporters’ Federation.
At that meeting fans debated the impact of TV on rescheduled kick-off times, and the ramifications for supporters, with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and other officials. The group decided that the issues should be further explored with broadcasters.
As a result Amanda Jacks (the FSF), Anna Burgess (Spirit of Shankly), Katrina Law (Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust), and Tim Rolls (Chelsea Supporters’ Trust) met with Sky representatives.
While all present accepted that TV games are a permanent feature, the fan reps felt more consideration could be given to match-going fans when Sky selected its weekly broadcast picks.
Rescheduled fixtures often leave fans - especially away fans - with no public transport options on the day of the game. Late announcements can increase the cost of travel as rail tickets rise while fans can often face long journeys at anti-social times such as weekday evenings.
Some detailed research on how fans of a number of clubs have been affected over recent seasons was shared by the supporter representatives. Sky also outlined the impact of investment over 25 years that has seen significant change both on-and-off the pitch.
In an open and constructive session, Sky explained their contractual obligations around the delivery of five of the seven TV packs they currently hold until the 2019 season. The team from Sky Sports explained that the fixture calendar across the year has no input from broadcasters when announced in June, but from that list from August to May they then select the matches for live broadcast coverage in the slots allocated to them.
There are clearly a lot of considerations to make when selecting matches for broadcast in those five slots, including further fixture displacement owing to European competitions, domestic Cup replays and policing decisions. No match is rescheduled for broadcast without the approval of both clubs and the Premier League.
Sky acknowledged fan concerns over travel to televised games and will continue the open and honest dialogue with fans to listen to the issues they face.
It was agreed that the meeting was a productive first step. Both sides agreed to meet again after feeding back information to their own stakeholders considering how to keep the dialogue going.
FSF note – while TV/fixture changes impact disproportionately on Premier League fans that doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue in the EFL and beyond. It most definitely is. The FSF will explore ways to mitigate that in conjunction with affiliated fan groups at those levels – whether through existing structures or new initiatives.
Thanks to Action Images for the picture used in this story.