The Premier League, its broadcasting partners, and the UK government have been urged to rethink their current plan to not broadcast every top-flight game this upcoming season.
Following football’s behind-closed-restart in June, all remaining 92 games were broadcast including a number of games being available on free-to-view TV, though for some reason, such a scenario is not being adopted for the 2020/21 campaign which is due to get underway on September 12.
With the Premier League fixtures announced earlier this week, so too came an announcement that 220 of the 380 games this season will be shown live on UK television, up from the originally planned 200.
The stance is in spite the fact that at least three rounds of top-flight fixtures will take place behind closed doors, and even when fans are allowed to return in October, capacities are set to be restricted to between 20-30% of the maximum to allow for social distancing, meaning many thousands of loyal fans are currently set to miss out on the ability to watch their team – either live or on the box.
A suggestion for allowing season ticket holders to stream their games has been rejected as broadcasters look to protect their exclusivity, with fears that the stance will lead to many supporters turning to illegal streaming sites, and Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has urged the decision-makers to rethink their stance in the best interest of domestic football fans.
“All too often when decisions are made about how we watch and enjoy football, the interests of the fans fall to the bottom of the list,” she told the Telegraph.
“While it was a welcome relief to be able to finish the last season, we all saw how empty stadiums changed the sport we love. Fans make the game what it is and their needs should come first, so while we can’t go and watch from the stands, more matches should be on TV.
“The Premier League and broadcasters need to sort it out and the Government should be playing its part to help them do that.”
Steve Brine, a Conservative member of the DCMS select committee, also echoed the calls for every game to be broadcast.
“If the every-game principle was good enough for the restart, so long as the parameters are the same around fan attendance then the every-game principle should apply at the start of the new season as well.
“Ministers need to watch like a hawk over this process to make sure that the consumer, the fan, is protected.”
A number of fans groups have already voiced their frustration with the current plans, with Katrina Law of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust telling the BBC this week: “I think there is a misconception among fans that they will be able to watch their team like they did in Project Restart.
“We definitely think there should be some provision for match-going fans because of a public-health emergency.
“The irony is that you will have 160 games which you can watch everywhere but the UK.
“This could drive fans to illegal streams of games and I can’t understand why the Premier League would want that for match-going fans who cannot attend.
“We have to remember that there are many season-ticket holders who won’t be able to go to games because of medical conditions.
“The current situation is not good enough.”