Pay-Per-View Protests Fuel Fan Food Bank Funding

The ends and means all over the place, as misdirected anger results in charity.

This weekend saw the big Pay-Per-View kick-off and as expected fans were throwing their toys out of their prams all over the country about the £15 being demanded to cover such Premier League classics as Sheff Utd vs Fulham and West Brom vs Burnley.

Faux anger lined social media, the despair of having to pay the extent of £15 for live football when they already pay through their nose for 200+ Premier League matches a year, the cheek that they could just make up a price for the content they own – what do they think this is, business? Greedy bastards.

Charity Not PPV

Pay-Per-View was trending on Twitter over the weekend, with fans taking to the ‘anger outlet’ to shout things like “£15 and there’s not even a build up” and “Not even any proper build-up, punditry or post-match reaction”.

All of this anger is misdirected at the Broadcasters, at a time of heated emotions, and it’s clouding the waters. Sky and BT are hugely wealthy stakeholders within this project, but it has already been made clear that this was not their idea nor to their benefit. They were better suited to showing all the games for free. Unfortunately when people are outraged, they don’t necessarily care where their anger is directed, as long as someone is listening. Twitter is always listening, and polarising sides is the nature of social media.

BT’s Opening Statement for the Defence

Marc Allera the Chief Executive of their Consumer Division has come out in defence of BT through this period,

“We had a suggested retail price which was suggested to us by the Premier League.

We also have a cost that they’re charging us for those games. We’re certainly not making significant amounts of money out of this, we’re pretty much just covering our costs to put these games on.”

Initially, we had been advised that Broadcasters would not profit from this PPV venture and the money was only due to the two sides contesting the Premier League fixture. This information from Allera suggests the broadcasters will receive a nominal fee, in which case we can be concerned with what their operating costs are, and why they couldn’t take a bigger cut to provide pundits and commentators – although these comments still re-iterate that the main benefactor from these matches is the Premier League itself, not the broadcasters. Allera continues,

“I think the intent of the Premier League to put these games on was to get some money moving into some of the clubs and leagues that are struggling and I think that’s a good intent, and that’s reflected in the price that they’re charging us

“The vast majority of that UK£14.95 is the cost price to us of that game. Our objective is to help the Premier League and the football ecosystem. Whether it’s a few thousand or a few hundred thousand it is still money that is going back into football and we’re pleased to be playing our part in that.”

These are hugely significant comments from the Chief at BT, and ones that do not fit the on-brand message from the Premier League. Effectively what BT are stating is that the Premier League are looking to fund the football league’s deficit out of the pocket of the arm-chair fan. This is a shocking message. It’s akin to the taxpayer bailing out the banks. It’s hoped that this was not the intention of the Premier League.

Sky and BT Refuse to Declare Viewing Figures

A number of tabloid newspapers are running with headlines “Sky and BT refuse to declare PPV numbers” following the weekend’s matches. It would appear they’re all written around the same story, the above unverified tweet from John Sinnott of CNN.

It’s fair for Sky and BT not to reveal their figures, but it is in the interest of the Premier League to announce the success / failure / status of these additional matches, particularly in light of Allera’s comments that this money is intended to cover the financial deficits of the overall game, and not just the rich getting richer.

Once these figures are declared, we are of course expecting them to be low – but what is low? St. James’ Park only holds 50,000 home fans – they annually retail approx 30,000 season tickets – so surely we’re looking at a PPV figure for the Newcastle vs Man Utd match at around 45,000 participants that would have saved money by paying the £15.

Or… do we compare it to the viewing figures for the average Newcastle vs Man Utd match that is on regular Sky Super Sunday? Either way, the stats will be used to promote the author’s agenda – there’s no direct comparison that works on a fair basis here. Expect fireworks when the figures are released, with chaos the overall objective of the message shared.

Newcastle United Raise £20k for Local Food Bank

This is a really good news story, and has inspired a number of clubs across the country to use their powers for good. Organisations like NUFC Foodbank, Burnley FC in the Community and Leeds United Fans Food Bank already existed pre-lockdown football and pre PPV. Their work is to use the positive community feeling of fandom and using it to help those in need, most commonly through the uses of food banks.

NUFC Foodbank, as pictured above, regularly attended home games and raised donations through volunteers carrying buckets outside the ground. They would raise approximately £5k per match, which is a great gesture to be celebrated. So at games where fans were already spending circa £1.5m (attendance of 52,040 x £30 average ticket) in gate receipts, an additional £15k was supported to the local Food Bank.

This weekend, whilst all the social media anger was kicking off, one fan suggested taking the recommended £15 PPV fee and donating this fee to charity – perhaps even a local Food Bank – and the momentum was set. This drive culminated over the weekend at £20,000 for the West End Food Bank of Newcastle. This is an amazing effort that all fans – nee, all people, should consider. If you have, then please give.

What isn’t so pleasant, is the use of Food Banks to create propaganda about the cost of Premier League football. One should not do charitable work for the sake of raising their own agenda. One also should not believe they are giving this money having “saved it” not buying the Newcastle match. You either had this money to give, or you didn’t – it didn’t suddenly appear because we set a price of £15 on televised football. If you want to support good causes, you don’t need an excuse.

In the analysis of the success of the Charity not PPV trend, £20k is a significant figure, but whilst Newcastle United’s fans have “saved” approximately £1.5m per match in lack of ticketing, they have only seen an additional £15k of that money being donated. As explained, this is not a direct comparison of PPV money going to Food Banks. There’s an equivalent £2m a game missing from Newcastle United’s home matches and the ultimate Pay-Per-View question is how do we keep that money within the game, to fight the gate receipt losses accumulating weekly.

Premier League losing £100m per month

This is the exact reason why the Food Bank association to the argument of Pay-Per-View football is quite embarrassing and demeaning. The scale of funding within football is incomparable to almost all business and industry across the globe. The idea that raising £20k as a protest against something within football is laughable. In context, that is less than half of Gareth Bale’s hourly rate.

Sky Sports’ current Premier League packages for televised matches retails at £9.8m per match – meaning they’re confident their subscription and advertising model has a significant increase on turnover – the idea that a Pay-Per-View boycott to the sum of £20,000 isn’t going to disturb the broadcasters. Releasing the figures for Pay-Per-View matches could affect their advertising, but this boycott is more likely to drive these matches off TV than they are of becoming available for free again.

The Premier League is the dominant cause for the move to Pay-Per-View, and that has been driven by the individual Premier League clubs. As mentioned in my prior article, the Pay-Per-View objective is on resolving the deficit of gate receipts whilst fans are unable to attend. This is a maximising profit business model, but not for those distributing the product but for the manufacturers of the product – the clubs.

Personal View

I try to remain objective on matters, but I do understand that the majority of reactions to Pay-Per-View appear to be on defending the end consumer from increased costs to watching the greatest league in the world. It does impact on our already limited funds, but these questions have always been there. People have to budget for the luxuries in their life, and Premier League football is a luxury – not a necessity. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, to a lot of us, football is a religion and we want to be completely at one with it – meaning we want access to every minute for the fear of missing out. The idea that someone has seen something we haven’t does affect how ‘close to God’ we are in comparison, but we should try to step back and appreciate that we all love football, we just have differing relationships with it.

We are not constantly owed something for nothing, and it’s important for us to remember this. I never used to have 10 Premier League games a weekend available on tv, and I never want to. It’s excessive and a concern for our mental health. The fact that we’re making it a possibility to watch every one of your own team’s matches for £15 a game should be celebrated – sure, we can argue about the cost – but this is a step forward for those fans unable to turn up and complete their stadium match day rituals. That’s it.

If you don’t like a product, you have the right to share your opinion and make your business decision – but we should stop feeling angered just because a decision doesn’t match how you feel it should go. You have the right to complain, and the right to not purchase that product – you don’t have the right to tell other people they’re wrong because you disagree. We’re not all Donald Trump, and neither should we aspire to be. We’re talking about the Premier League, not the NHS.

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