Just when you think things can’t get any worse, the FSA has just informed the Canaries Trust of the details of the EFL broadcast deal for 2024 – 9.
Inevitably, these show a significant increase in the number of games that will be shown, because why would you want to leave your comfy armchair and go out in the cold to watch actual live football?
From the 2024-25 season, Sky Sports will now broadcast a minimum of:
• 328 Sky Bet Championship matches
• 248 Sky Bet League One matches
• 248 Sky Bet League Two matches
• All 15 Play-Off matches
• All 93 Carabao Cup matches
• All 127 EFL Trophy matches
Each league weekend fixture round will see 10 live EFL fixtures shown – five from the Sky Bet Championship and five from the Sky Bet League One and League Two. Every match from the Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy will also be available.
All opening, final day, and midweek fixtures in the Sky Bet EFL will be shown live as will all games played on Bank Holidays including Easter, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day alongside the matches played in Sky Bet League One and Two during international breaks.
This will see a substantial increase in the number of games moved from Saturday 3:00 pm. Every weekend, 5 out of every 12 Championship games will now be moved from that 3:00 pm slot for TV as well as 5 League 1 and 2 games. A total of 10 in total.
There are approximately 32 weekend fixture rounds per season, Easter and Christmas dates notwithstanding, which would equate to 300+ games being moved from Saturday at 3:00pm. It’s a massive increase as the last deal was 138 EFL games per season including midweek fixtures.
There will be a big media income increase from £595m for 5 years to £935m over the same time period, which is good news for clubs but not for fans, other than armchair ones.
The EFL say there will be “increased notice for fans” but they don’t define what that is. As we know all too well, there are supposed to be deadlines for Sky to announce kick-off time changes well in advance to help fans arrange transport and/or hotels, but these are routinely overstepped.
This is a nightmare for fans, particularly those relying on train services, whose advance booking systems create a double-whammy, in that early booking secures cheaper fares, but if you then have to cancel and rebook due to a kick-off change you are hit with a whopping “administration” fee.
It also stands to reason that Sky will prioritise its Premier League coverage over that of the Championship. As we know from our brief stays in the top division, the casual breach of deadlines also happens there, which would mean that those delays will cascade down to EFL giving fans even less notice.
The EFL statement also references a new EFL/Sky streaming service to replace the iFollow/red button services, but no details have been announced, and it can only be hoped that any future provision is an improvement on the current offering, which is completely unfit for purpose with pictures blurring, no replays and a commentator working from a location miles away from the ground.
The broadcast deal is already an agenda item for the forthcoming EFL dialogue meeting, but the FSA will be looking to speak to the EFL about this as a matter of urgency.
The fact is that these changes will further alter the way fans can access live football and annoy and inconvenience EFL football fans everywhere.
If the football and TV authorities want to keep football as a live spectacle with a proper atmosphere, they need to seriously work together to investigate all the negative as well as positive impacts of these changes and look at possible solutions to problems that are effectively self-made.