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As the Premier League prepares to make history by broadcasting a full round of fixtures live this week, albeit via Amazon, the question has once again been asked: Why doesn’t the Premier League have its own broadcasting channel or service?
It’s something I spoke about two years ago, a month after the last general election ironically.
A Premier League Game pass, run in the same way as the NFL’s, NBA’s, MLB’s and NHL’s, would basically replicate what every major sport in the United States is doing to great success.
The US already shows every Premier League game live on a Saturday, it’s time for Britain to catch up in its own sport.
Much has been made about combatting illegal online video streaming of football games, especially for the Saturday 3pm kick-offs. For me there is a simple solution; the Premier League needs its own Game pass; a service which will allow subscribers to watch any game live.
As a fan of the NFL and NBA, gridiron and basketball leagues in the US, watching games could not be easier.
For a yearly fee, I can watch every match live and if I miss any, I can watch them later. The archive of games means I can go back and watch games from previous seasons if I really want to.
It is so helpful and well worth the money. Games that are chosen live for television are blacked out on the service but once the game is over, they can be watched or downloaded.
Now obviously that hasn’t stopped people from streaming matches illegally — some people would rather watch the game for free than pay, but it is a start and that is where the Premier League is going wrong.
There has been no attempt to try to stop those people, which is said to be a third of Premier League fans, who are fed up of listening to the radio or watching Soccer Saturday for their updates and want to see the action live.
They would rather find a website showing the game, which isn’t difficult. The United States shows all Premier League games live so it is quite easy to find Manchester United v Burnley with two US commentators, usually with a third being a former Premier League player who is now working for a US company.
I get that the 3pm blackout rule is in place to protect the clubs lower down the football pyramid, to ensure fans turn up and that they don’t lose out on money.
But let’s be honest, that rule is outdated given these streams and having Premier League football shown live on a Saturday afternoon isn’t going to dramatically alter attendances in League Two.
If anything, it might drive down ticket prices. It would give fans an alternative. Pay £60 for one game or £100 for a subscription to watch as many games as you want? I know what I would choose.
It could also force BT Sport and Sky Sports to charge less for their channels.
Some Sky packages are in the region of £40 a month — many people cannot afford that and if you don’t support one of the big clubs, is it worth paying to not be able to watch your team?
With Sky doing a full revamp ahead of the new season and its subscription meaning fans need even more channels to watch football, many have had enough and want an alternative.
However, less money for Sky would mean the Premier League would be out of pocket, and that is probably why we won’t see a Game pass anytime soon.
It may serve the league, and possibly the Football Association, better for them to produce their own subscription channel.
If fans continue to stream games, the league may not have a choice.
They will use live attendances, and their hefty bank balances thanks to the powerhouse that is Sky, as an excuse but the chances are it wouldn’t affect supporters turning up to Old Trafford or Ashburton Grove.
Fans of NFL and NBA teams still turn up in their droves to watch their teams, even if they have a Game pass.
NFL fans enjoy watching other games throughout the week, something football fans are unable to do. If you miss a game live, that is the only way to see the full 90 minutes.
Sure, Match of the Day and other highlights shows are available but that’s just what they are, highlights.
We should have the opportunity to watch the full game, not short clips.
They will go to an American Football game and then watch the replay on the app.
I would love a Premier League Game pass, it would enable me to go back and focus on certain periods of the game and allow me to understand it better.
After reading The Mixer by Michael Cox, a book analysing the different tactics used in the Premier League over the last 25 years, I have wanted to watch certain games described in the book.
Obviously I cannot and YouTube videos aren’t the same.
While teams do show replays of classic games on their in-house TV channels, and Sky Sports and BT Sports show certain matches daily, it is quite often the forgotten games that serve up excellent viewing.
Everyone remembers a particular game they attended or watched with friends or family. It could be a dull 0-0 but it was the first time you saw your favourite player and he had the best game ever.
I know there is a particular Manchester United v Arsenal game I want to watch due to a skilled move Cristiano Ronaldo pulls off against Ashley Cole.
However, it wasn’t a classic and waiting for MUTV or Sky Sports to randomly put it on has so far meant I have been unable to rewatch it.
If the men’s game don’t implement it, it is certainly something the women’s game should.
At the moment, games are either televised on BT Sport or the red button on BBC but more often than not they are not shown.
The Women’s Super League taking matters into their own hands and creating their own streaming service could give them their own audience and raise the profile of the game.
While it could stop a few fans from going to games, a collective bargaining agreement between all teams so that they are compensated for any potential loss could solve that.
Maybe the need for a Game pass service comes from a purely selfish place and that the majority of fans would rather continue streaming games on a Saturday afternoon.
People that share this need with me are either journalists who would benefit from being able to watch more games from the comfort of their home, be it live or on replay, fans who have the NFL or NBA Game pass or football fans who want to watch as much football as they can.
There are obviously those who will welcome such an addition as it will work out cheaper for them but it is clear that football fans are being short-changed compared to fans of other sports.
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