22 March ~ The BBC may end their live coverage of the Football League and the League Cup from 2012-13 due to planned cuts set to be announced later today. This will leave Sky and ESPN to fight it out for the rights with no live league football on terrestrial television. ITV will continue to show the FA Cup, Champions League and England games, while Channel 5 shows the odd Europa League game. With Sky and ESPN already owning the rights to live Premier League games this news will come as a blow to football fans who can't afford to pay hefty subscription fees.

The Beeb only broadcast ten league games a season, leaving fans restricted to the basic five channels starved of live football as it is. Football is our national game but, with Sky's continuing domination of coverage, it is being taken away from many people. The highlights packages will remain on the BBC, but that is not enough, live games must stay as well.

When the BBC gained the rights to show matches it seemed to signal a loosening of Sky's grip on coverage. While it's clearly unrealistic to expect football to ever return completely to terrestrial television, I was hopeful that just a little more may migrate over. It seems though that the rise of money in the sport, driven by Sky's millions in television rights has meant that competing for the ability to show live games isn't deemed worth it by the BBC. This will pain the Football League whose contract with title sponsors Npower contains a clause reducing sponsorship payments if the BBC no longer cover live matches.

What I find strange is the lack of coverage in the media. Hardly any newspapers or websites have reported this story at all. Far from the upset I expected, there seems to be something close to complete indifference as to who wins the rights – nobody cares that in order to watch any league football on television fans will have to fork out on subscription fees. I have heard it suggested that football on British television will eventually become the sole possession of pay per view channels. If these rights go to Sky or ESPN instead of the BBC it won't be a seismic shift but it will certainly be a nudge in that direction. Philip Lewis

Comments (7)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2011-03-22 13:55:00

>>What I find strange is the lack of coverage in the media. Hardly any newspapers or websites have reported this story at all.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2011-03-22 14:01:49

... and look at all the comments.

Comment by innocent bystander 2011-03-22 14:32:30

Yes, the silence on all media channels regarding this issue is shocking. It seems that the public has given up on watching football on terrestrial TV. This is sad.

Comment by imp 2011-03-22 15:20:03

Back in the 70s, the argument was that live football on TV would kill the game, but that pre-dated the idea that television companies would pay vast amounts of money for the broadcast rights. Still, increased live TV coverage hasn't done the game at the bottom end many favours. So, do we need the lower leagues on terrestrial TV? Wouldn't these leagues be better served by paying fans at the gate? Who watches these games apart from actual fans of the teams involved, whose absence from the stadium means less atmosphere and an inconvenient kick-off time in return for a pay-off that might patch up some short term financial holes, but won't necessarily benefit the club and the game in the long run?

From a strictly personal viewpoint, if my team's not involved, I'd rather watch the highlights anyway, be it League Cup, League 2, or League de Champions. There are way too many live games, and I've wasted way too many hours of my life watching forgettable low moments in among the flashes of skill.

Comment by MarkBrophy 2011-03-22 16:10:22


Centralised UEFA sale of European Nations Cup qualifiers will probably eventually mean them ending up on pay TV unless I've completely got the wrong end of the stick.

Also: FIFA and UEFA's failed recent attempt to remove all games in their Finals tournaments from events of national significance list that must be free-to-air in the UK. They'll be back, and Government is to review the list in 2013.

Comment by Lincoln 2011-03-22 16:12:25

Agree to a point, but when our team is on gates tend to increase
as there is a buzz about maybe "getting my face on telly". However for other teams I am not overly bothered and find the commentary overly patronising. Each pass that goes to the intended recipient is greeted with suprise and every ten minutes we are reminded both teams are "playing some good stuff", as if football is an alien concept to anyone outside the Premiership. Each team having their games shown via the internet is the way forward as mentioned in WSC this month

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2011-03-23 13:59:34

I have no concerns whatsoever about no live league football on terrestial tv. If people want to watch football and don't want to pay for Sky then they have to get off thair a*ses and go to a game. If they can't be bothered to do that they they don't deserve "free" football.

I'm not sure whether having live football increases or decreases crowds but one thing I can say is that wherever I may be when a live game is on the only people that are watching it are those that would never pay to go to a game anyway, or fans of either one of the two clubs playing who can't get to the game.

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