Last week the EFL announced that for £110 a season, overseas fans would be able to watch Championship, League One and League Two matches live. UK fans should be given the same chance.
The announcement that streaming will be available from next season is a win for overseas fans - especially fans of smaller clubs who would never get the chance to see their team play otherwise. It also has the potential to be a win for smaller clubs to get some much-needed extra revenue, and an opportunity for further reform.
The EFL should be commended on making the matches available but it would be reasonable to ask why it has taken so long. The technology has been there for a while, though it’s a case of better late than never.
Inevitably, despite not having official access, fans in the UK will take advantage of the service by using a VPN or finding a free stream themselves. The league and the government could get ahead of that and maximise the opportunity that they’ve just created by introducing the service, and make it available everywhere.
Proponents of the 3pm blackout laws would argue that such a change would harm attendance figures. Technology has outgrown those laws.
The league could protect itself and capitalise by making a similar offer available in the UK. Fans with any technical nous will be sure to be streaming matches for free anyway so the league should accept that and lobby to change the 3pm blackout laws, to allow fans in the UK the option to pay for the service.
The laws were put in place to protect smaller clubs, with the thinking being that if bigger teams were televised at the same time- 3pm on a Saturday- then people would not go to watch their team and would instead stay at home to watch other matches.
The thinking is flawed. Most fans want to watch their team first but are not always able to.
Watching on a TV or computer doesn’t come close to the match day experience, but it’s a good second option, if available.
Fans would be able to watch away games that they can’t always travel to. Elderly, young, and sick fans, as well as fans that live a long way from where their team plays and can’t attend matches regularly, would all be given the chance to support their team and provide extra revenue that their clubs desperately need.
The success of other on-demand streaming services has shown people are willing and happy to pay to watch the content they want to watch. English football should give all fans that option.
An increase in revenue for clubs would allow them to lower ticket prices so that they are still able to maintain and even increase attendances.
More money has improved the quality of the Premier League and filled the coffers of the clubs there. It would be a fair assumption to say that clubs lower down would benefit from a similar system, albeit on a smaller scale.
Anything that allows more people to watch more football is good for the game.