An open letter to TV companies, whose fixture list changes show contempt for football fans

Subject: An open letter to TV companies, whose fixture list changes show contempt for football fans
From: James McNicholas
Date: 26 Jan 2016

To Sky,

The decision to move Arsenal’s match with Leicester is more than disappointing - it’s disgraceful. What’s most infuriating is that Sky had the opportunity to make this a television game before Christmas. Leicester were already in an elevated position then, and the allure of this fixture was already clear. There is no excuse for leaving it this late.

Of course, there will be plenty of neutrals who are delighted they’ll now be able to watch the game from the comfort of their sofa. However, in making this switch you’ve inconvenienced many supporters who have already made specific plans and investments to attend o the original date — not least the Leicester fans, who will have made their own arrangements for travel.

Foxes supporters have already announced they will be staging their own protest, staying in the stadium’s concourse for the first five minutes of the game, and bringing banners. Their decision to take action is admirable, but ultimately it will probably make a minimal impact. Will it even be seen? Sky’s cameras are unlikely to hone in on sparsely-populated parts of the ground and incriminate themselves.

In truth, there are plenty of culpable parties here beyond the television companies, namely the Premier League and the clubs themselves, who gladly rake in the TV revenues without doing enough to protect the interests of their fans. The supporters are being hit in the pocket, and one suspects the only way to make their voices heard is to respond in kind by boycotting games and cancelling satellite subscriptions.

The Premier League’s power-brokers can feel safe in the knowledge that’s unlikely. Fans are torn: they want to be heard, but they don’t want to turn their backs on the clubs they adore. The likes of Sky can bite the hand that feeds them without fear of reproach.

It isn’t fair, and it’s essential that regulations are introduced to prevent this happening again. Currently, the Premier League say they try to give fans a minimum of six weeks’ warning of any fixture changes. Trying is not good enough — that ought to be a cast-iron guarantee.

Television money has brought plenty of good things to the Premier League. However, it is the passion of the fans that help make the competition such a marketable product. The powers that be risk alienating those supporters at their peril. They never seem to realise that the league simply wouldn’t be the same without them.