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The Sky deal
The rich get richer
By Chris Lawton

So what does it all mean?

125 million pounds over 5 years to be divided out amongst the three non-Premiership divisions seems like a good deal. Watford will benefit to the tune of stlg 800,000 a year over this period, assuming no promotion or relegation. There will be increased live coverage of non-Premiership football, supplying the armchair fan with seven days football coverage a week.

Personally, I do not like it. I didn't like the creation of a Premiership and I like this new deal even less. Sure, we get more money but who now runs football? The leagues will generate fixture lists only to have them completely rearranged by TV schedules. The lower leagues will become a poor relation to the Premiership big boys.

SKY won't care. They will have their subscription money and viewing figures ultimately won't bother them because if you are not watching it on SKY TV then you won't be watching it anywhere else on TV. Fewer fans will go to the grounds to watch matches live. Who is going to travel miles on a Thursday night or on a Sunday to get to a distant ground for a noon kick off? We all the know the outcry when the Christmas fixture pitches a London club versus a northern club with a noon kick off. The TV money gained will in part have to be used to make up for the shortfall in gates.

Then take a club like Brighton. The pittance that they receive out of the TV deal is not going to help them and ultimately how many people are going to sit and watch Brighton vs Scarborough on a Sunday lunchtime?

The TV deal is bad for football because it gives one station a monopoly on the broadcast and hence a very strong hand on what is shown. If people don't watch lower league football will it ultimately be phased out? Are we also in danger in taking money away from the lower divisions which are in desperate need of cash and so fundamentally vital to the game in this country? Because of the greed of certain Premiership clubs the effect is knocked on. Transfer prices spiral upwards and the little clubs get forced out.

Even the 1st division clubs have showed this greed, demanding at least 80 percent of the TV money or else they will go off and set up their own league. In any other walk of life this amounts to blackmail and doesn't protect the interests of those who most need it.

The solution? Other than boycotting SKY TV there is not a lot we as fans can do. We must, as always, continue to support our club as best as our finances, location and time allow. Our money should be spent watching Watford live at the Vic three or four times a year rather than a similar number of times on SKY. Fans should, where possible, push clubs to guarantee that fans can see highlights at least on terrestial TV. Once SKY have a monopoly they can easily pull the plug on Match of the Day etc by demanding money from the BBC for rights - the BBC do not have the budget to compete.

One final thought is that the whole realm of sport is currently at the edge of being dominated by SKY TV. Whilst this inevitably brings more money into sport it will serve to widen gaps between the top few and the bottom majority. It is a classic case of the rich will continue to get richer and the rest feed on the scraps.

A tribal and human experience
By Ian Grant

I'll make no claims to the originality of these thoughts (read "Fever Pitch", if you haven't already) but I do believe that the Sky deal is a watershed point for the lower divisions.

Regardless of money and monopolies, the simple fact is that the average gate in the First Division is less than ten thousand fans. That's with games kicking off at sensible times. Change those games to a Friday night or early on a Sunday and you'll see the already paltry attendances drop like a stone. Bearing in mind that games will be covered with no regard to fans' travelling arrangements, only a complete nutter is going to attempt to get around the country on a Friday night when they could be sat in front of the TV with a nice cup of tea.

Of course, the clubs won't really mind if the attendances drop for live games - they'll be getting enough money from Murdoch to cover that loss. It seems to me, though, that Sky will rapidly tire of this. Football is more than 22 men and a ball - it's a tribal and human experience, it's about people. Reduce it to the level of bloody hockey, a game in an empty stadium, and it dies as a spectacle. When I watch football on TV, I want to see goals and action (of course) but I want more than that - I want atmosphere, aggression, passion from the stands. When a goal's scored, I want to see the player rushing to celebrate with the fans and those fans going mental. Like I say, it's part of the spectacle. More than that, IT IS THE SPECTACLE! Take away the fans and you might as well show a reserve game - as technically interesting and potentially exciting as the real thing but completely pointless because no-one cares.

Show Brighton v Scarborough on a Friday night and you'll be lucky if there's three thousand fans in the ground - try and make that sound enticing to the armchair viewer! How long will it take Rupert Murdoch to work out that he's paying a lot of money for something that's dull as dishwater?