Armchair Supporters, Sit Down and Unite

You’re only a real fan if go to the game to watch Football. Armchair supporters aren’t real fans. You’ve got to be in the stands to support your club, right? Right? If that’s true, the future of this game of ours may be considerably less in scale, as the revenue inherited from TV rights indicates. Just as going to the game has grown into watching on TV, maybe it’s time football consumption evolves again.

Seeing a live game of football literally in front of you is difficult to repIicate. Not much comes close to experiencing that atmosphere first hand, but if only real fans are the one’s in attendance at an actual real life stadium then there is only a small finite number of people who can call themselves a football fan. On any given weekend only around 1,014,104 people could be football fans. That’s if every football league fixture in England was a sell out (and depending only on what stadium the fixture was played at). Given the Premier League alone boasted revenue of 3.3 Billion last year, that would cost every ‘real fan’ of every league club £3254.00 a year in ticket purchases just to keep the Premier League in the pomp and affluence it is accustomed to. Let alone the Championship, League one, and League two. For the global, multi billion pound behemoth that English football is 1,014,104 people isn’t going to cut it. Could this mean there is room for the armchair supporter after all?

The basic maths may be reductive but not without merit. The television viewing football fan contributes a significant wedge though TV subscriptions and ad revenue driven through viewing figures. Every couple of years it feels like a new TV deal is in place with clubs, particularly in the Premier League, raking in millions upon millions of additional cash. But just as rising ticket prices forced the average football fans back into their armchairs, growing subscription fees could be in danger of doing the same to the lowly armchair fan. Now one TV package isn’t enough with football broadcasting rights recently multiplying in the shape of BT Sport incroching on Sky’s Soccer monopoly. A rare case of commercial competition where the consumer actually loses. 

Unfortunately after TV there isn’t many places to go for a football fix. Dodgy streams are hit or miss at best and the bonus gambit of free malware or spyware add an element of tension to the Russian Comentary. Certainly not a ‘go to’ for your 2-0 away loss to Everton. But watching football via the Internet is surely now the natural evolution for the game. The consumption of online content  is, and has, been growing exponentially for quite some time. The prominence of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and normalcy of on-demand viewing are testament to that. The powers that be at the Premier League would be naive to ignore this trend and foolish to gate off potential football fans as younger generations grow with web based entertainment as the norm. Sky’s ‘Sky Go’ began to bridge the gap with the app offering all of Sky’s content for PC’s and mobile devices but is still hidden behind the expensive Sky TV subscription paywall. BT Sport also offer a mobile app as part of their service but recently have taken things a step further. Both the Europa League final and the Champions League final were streamed live on YouTube. A noble olive branch to give the most prestigious games in club football to a global Audience for free. 

Like most Sports, Football needs to be seen live as it happens, making an on-demand service all but redundant. A web based affordable subscription must surely be the next step. No ones going to give anything away for free so a nominal fee, similar to Netflix or Amazon, is far more palatable than the hundreds and hundreds of pounds a year required to watch live football at present. A football dedicated, ad subsidised, affordable viewing client that fits how the consumer  wants to consume surely can’t be that much of a pipe dream? It’s almost like the broadcasters are only in it for the money! With an evolving media and pricing wars where the public loses out the Broadcasters and the Premier League should be weary of their greed. Nothing is going to replace attending a game in the flesh, but it’s time for Broadcasters to adapt or die. 


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