Weekend update + will we see a change in how football is broadcast?

Joseph Zucker Arsenal FC

It’s Monday. Welcome to a brand new week folks. Hope you had a nice weekend, whatever you did by not doing stuff. We had nice weather here in Dublin, and with news that social restrictions have gone some way to flattening the curve of infection, it was notable that there were far more people out and about than there have been previously.

Of course people have to live, to buy groceries, and all that stuff, but just generally speaking there seemed to be a lot more exercise going on. Not just joggers, most of whom now are very conscientious and step out onto the road (that might be something to do with coming head on with a German Shepherd though), but families out walking, kids on bikes etc.

The sun is shining, we all want to be outside, and if you don’t have a garden then what choice do you have? It will be ‘interesting’ to see if there’s any impact from it though, and if so, what might be done to deal with it. I think there’s something about Covid-19 becoming this kind of abstract danger. At this point, if you haven’t had it or had any direct experience of it, could it be easy to think that you’ve successfully avoided it, or that it’s all been a bit overblown? This is in spite of all the stories from Emergency Rooms and hospitals and the daily death tolls which have numbers that should terrify us.

Front-line reports from health workers should be enough to keep everyone focused, but it’s impossible to completely circumvent human nature. To those still doing their utmost every day to treat the sick, and to keep life functioning in some kind of semi-normal way, putting themselves at risk for the benefit of others, thank you.

The report in yesterday’s Sunday Times that was doing the rounds was damning of Boris Johnson and the response of the British government, while the messaging from on high on the far side of the Atlantic has unquestionably contributed to level of public denial and lack of social responsibility that will more than likely have terrible consequences for some of those people – but sadly too for the ones doing their best, the vulnerable, and so on.

I think this is a thing which is going to fundamentally change us in all kinds of ways, in how we live, how society operates, and how we view one another. Some of it will be for good, some of it not so good. There will be a lot said and done, or not done, that won’t be forgotten. That’s a bridge we’re going to have to cross – 2 metres apart – some time down the line.

I know we’ve all been thinking of football and how this affects clubs and players, and of course us as fans too. I read over the weekend – in one of those articles which outlines plans to bring the game back – that the Premier League are not currently thinking of providing live TV coverage of every game. Last week, Rick Parry, Chairman of the EFL (which covers the Championship, Leagues 1 & 2), said:

Plans are continuing to be worked up for all games to be broadcast either via our broadcast partners, iFollow or equivalent Club streaming services. We will update you on this once we know when matches will recommence.

It seems astonishing that the Premier League aren’t following suit here. The general consensus is that when football returns it will be behind closed doors, that we’re still some way from mass gatherings being allowed again, so what does that mean for season ticket holders and by extension the club itself? It seems ludicrous that there aren’t efforts being made to provide coverage of the games for them, first and foremost, and then the general public.

Ok, maybe there’s an argument that there aren’t enough channels on Sky/BT to show all the games that will be taking place. But the technology already exists to stream games in HD, so why aren’t they using that? I suspect there might be a reluctance to do it because it will shatter the broadcast set-up we currently have.

Imagine this: a Digital Arsenal Season Ticket – something I’ve often talked about. You pay your money, you get access to a service which gives you high quality access to the Premier League’s footage which is done for every game anyway, with its commentary, or even club specific commentary. Arsenal might do their own pre and post-show stuff with analysis guests, and all you need to do is download the app on your phone, tablet, TV, or stream to your TV.

I would pay for that, as I’m sure many of you would too. It’s already pretty easy to find a HD stream for every single game that’s played across Europe’s big leagues. There are private services which, if you’re lucky enough to be part of, don’t bombard you with lots of pop-up ads etc. How much would you pay per game to have easy official access though? The convenience, the quality, the lack of a ‘play’ button which doesn’t play anything but instead opens up a full screen ad for a gambling site?!

However, we’re currently tied to this model where we have to pay Sky and BT for subscriptions. Oh, and Amazon too this season if you want the games they have. And you can be sure that in order to ensure no broadcaster has a monopoly the rights are further distributed for the ‘benefit’ of viewers – but basically it means that we have to pay ANOTHER subscription so it just costs us more. I don’t want to pay Facebook a single penny for anything, least of all football, but that’s where we were heading.

Now, I wonder if things might be different, so the seismic impact of Covid-19 on sport and all the industries that feed off it, might have far reaching consequences that we previously thought nigh on impossible. It’s not that individual TV deals, or club specific subscriptions are new ideas, simply ones that would been incredibly difficult to implement. Perhaps the fact that fans – who remain the lifeblood of the game as the financial predictions of football without them for a prolonged period clearly demonstrate – will now have to experience football in a different way might precipitate a major change in how football is delivered to them.

I guess we’ll see. Right, enough waffle from me. James and I are recording an Arsecast Extra this morning for your aural pleasure.

As ever if you have questions or topics for discussion, send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

The podcast will be out for you around lunchtime. Until then.