Tuesday’s aborted threat by Leeds United FC to ban Sky Sports from their ground reflected a view that TV has a negative impact on club supporters. Never a simple situation, the argument rests on comparing the positives gained from a huge amount of money (top players, top managers, high spec stadia) with the downside (obnoxious behaviour of overpaid players, expensive seats, reduced atmosphere, kick off times moved around). Where you sit in the argument partly depends on which club you support. Leeds are a good example of a club who chased TV money (European rather than UK) and paid a heavy price for failure. For Leeds fans there is little obvious benefit from the incredible sums involved in next year’s TV deal whereas those in the premier league can look forward to untold riches, the chance to watch the most talented, fittest footballers ever and an increase in the all important global brand.
The problem for those who fight against modern football is that the game was in a bad way before Sky came along (low attendances in crumbling stadia with occasional horrific acts of violence). Globalisation has changed the links between individuals, communities, clubs and businesses to the extent that there is no going back.
For those who champion and crave the new money the problem is that football’s importance is partly in the context of the supporters who attend matches. If those supporters turn their back on clubs, the spectacle is diminished, the TV audience is reduced and advertising revenues may decrease.
At the moment, there are sufficient supporters for their role to be taken for granted. Therefore we have too many televised games and situations such as at Leeds on Tuesday. One day the money may run dry. It says something about the enduring appeal of football that it will continue whatever happens