Fans are growing tired of Sky meddling with kick-off times and as a result many are now questioning the value of a season ticket – results aside.
By the time Wolves play QPR on Saturday January 23, a third of our matches for the season would have been televised.
It’s a bizarre situation we find ourselves in with the club now on telly as regularly as top clubs in the Premier League – yet our results seem a world away from the summit of England’s elite.
Considering our odds as one of the promotion favourites for 2015/16, being featured on television so frequently for the first quarter of the term was understandable.
However when Sky announced their next run of fixtures involved a series of Wolves games, eyebrows were raised considering the club were languishing in the bottom half of The Championship.
A Friday night fixture against Nottingham Forest began the television powerhouse’s run of 10 games in 10 days, ’10 in 10’ as it was branded with Ian Holloway the posterboy of this selection box of festive matches.
This meant some team had to play the graveyard shift of a Thursday night in December. Step forward Wolves and Leeds United whose last encounter was also on TV but on a sunny Easter Monday in April – ahhh the good old days.
But while Wolves versus Leeds looks an attractive game to the neutral, Reading at home on Boxing Day and our away game on New Year’s Day against Brighton raised more questions than answers. If anything it comes across as a conscious assault on Wolves’ fixture list by the powers that be at Sky HQ – but we know that’s not the case, surely.
However Sky’s name is mud around the terraces of Molineux.
Just when you think the last straw was moving a 3pm fixture in London to 12.30pm (The QPR game) they sparked further fury among Wolves fans (and I highly suspect Wolves officials too) by announcing their match at home to Derby has also been changed to a lunchtime kick-off.
A friend joked with me that Sky was putting its focus on the race for 14th in The Championship – it bloody well looks that way.
However there seems a more calculated theory behind Sky’s apparent obsession with Wolves and lo and behold cash and the Premier League isn’t far away from the cause.
According to The Guardian in February of 2015, Sky paid £5.14bn to retain rights to broadcast its package of Premier League football matches. The deal means Sky is now paying £11m a game, up from £6.6m under its previous deal.
Soon after this deal was secured the corporation announced a series of staff redundancies after splashing out on the rights and like any business it has been looking at maximising its commercial opportunities.
It would be fair to assume paying so much for television rights, albeit for another division, would have put more emphasis on viewing figures of all of Sky’s football deals.
The Football League wouldn’t be immune from this and with a commercial opportunity for advertising around games commanding higher ratings, a select number of teams are always more likely to attract large viewing figures and guess what Wolves are one of them.
In fact it is no secret that the likes of Wolves, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and Nottingham Forest draw in bigger viewing figures than most in the Football League.
The clubs have an appeal that goes beyond these shores and of course more exposure means more opportunities to charge more for advertising etc.
If this seems far fetched may I point you in the direction of Manchester United. Despite not winning the trophy since 2004 or appear in the final since 2007, United have had every one of their FA Cup ties televised since 2005 – that’s 48 cup ties in a row. A coincidence? Do me a favour. Their name alone has the corporations rubbing their hands at the prospect of cash.
The reality is the aforementioned Football League clubs may have to get accustomed to having their fixture lists assaulted by the television companies. Home games at 3pm are becoming rarer all while empty seats continue to grow with Derby’s attendances the only anomaly in this trend.
So as the cost of going to a live game continues to rise so will the numbers choosing to watch the game on TV. With this comes a demand and more reason for TV companies to change kick-off times.
It’s something when Wolves and Leeds fans unite by chanting their protest at such a ridiculous day for a game and it is ultimately the said fans who are paying the price in more ways than one.
By Adam Thompson