The massive amounts of TV money the Premier League receives finances many of the aspects of it we enjoy the most, but this money cannot be allowed to distort the experience of football for the fans.
From next season, the Premier League will be paid an incredible £3.018 billion for domestic TV rights over three years. This is an amount which confirms the Premier League’s status as the richest league in the world, and clubs in the league will receive huge payouts as a result.
There are clearly many positives to this, this kind of money will allow the league’s top teams to invest in the most exciting foreign players, and should help guarantee the survival of the smaller teams in the league. But to allow TV rights to make up such a large percentage of clubs income gives the broadcasters more power, and their interests may not always tally with the clubs or the fans.
Looking at the Spanish league there is a clear argument against the power of TV companies, as their intervention has lead to several ludicrous results. I’m writing this on a Sunday morning, I could have already watched Athletic Bilbao draw 3-3 with Espanyol (quite annoyed I missed that actually) and from now on I can watch an unbroken run of fixtures that finishes at around 10:30pm, yesterday matches finished even later.
This kind of run is great for fans watching on TV, it makes our two-match Super Sunday look somewhat pathetic, but it is bad for fans going to the games in Spain, and it is bad for the football clubs playing those games. At the start of the season it was even announced that five matches kicking off at 11pm to allow television coverage, sparking protests from many clubs.
Perhaps the most important issue relating to TV coverage in Spain is the support it gives to the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona, who receive €140 million of the total pot of €755 million.
It seems incredible that this is allowed, but it tallies with what you would expect when the broadcasters have so much power. The two Spanish giants are clearly the teams spectators around the world want to see the most, but to give them such a financial advantage seems to remarkably short sighted.
But TV companies have little investment in the structures of a league itself, and giving them their way in every country to the extent they have in Spain will lead to more and more money being given to the top 3-4 clubs, and the rest being unable to catch up.
Eventually other teams will not be able or willing to compete, and the domestic leagues will become an irrelevance. This will affect the lifeblood of the game for many fans, but TV companies will just buy the rights to the inevitable European Super League that will form.
And we will watch it.
image: © peacecup