So, the National League has taken a decision….well, kind of. After a tantrum from Wrexham co-owner Ryan Reynolds about why he couldn’t live stream matches – presumably he doesn’t have a “little camera” like our own Scott Priestnall – it looks like matches might be streamed by the end of the season.
I say ‘might’ because, well, it’s the National League and they don’t have an exemplary track record and also it’s not really live streaming like you might first think. This isn’t going to be like the ‘lockdown season’ of 2020-21 when all matches will be available as it’s already been said that matches televised on BT Sport won’t be streamed and nor will any games with breach the ‘black out rule’ preventing the broadcast of matches in England and Wales between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday.
So, in essence, it means midweek matches and games played on a bank holiday can be streamed. There was a few other dates in November and December which are exempt from the rule, or Article 3 – Transmission Rights’ of Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes, which would allow broadcast of matches during the winter World Cup in Qatar. Not that these really matter as the National League will unlikely have decided the date of its next meeting by November let alone anything else!
Today’s Non-League Paper suggests there’s likely to be a variety of ways to pay for streams, including per game, per month or in the form of a ‘season ticket’, which would see subscribers able to choose which match to watch, as opposed to being tied to a single team.
The big question comes down to – where’s the money going? The National League has said the finances will benefit the 72 teams in the three divisions and presumably this will need to support teams in National League North and South (Hi, W*ymouth!) to get set up for televising games. Do they even have fibre optic cables in South Dorset?
The decision was “unanimously” approved by the entire National League Board, which includes our own chairman, of course, at a meeting on Thursday and therefore we assume the lower division clubs have been given some kinds of assurances.
Surely at least a percentage of the money needs to be equitably distributed to avoid deepening the financial gulf between the big spenders and the small spenders. In this instance, as a National League Premier club drawing crowds of more than 2,000 to home matches, we’re almost certainly a big(er) spender – can someone pick Scott up off the floor, please? It’s got to be about what’s fair for everyone, right?
The other thing is, are we going to see clubs buggering about with kick-off times to enable them to stream outside the 2.45pm-5.15pm window on a Saturday? Will Ryan Reynolds be insisting on evening kick-offs for Wrexham to allow him to tune in from Los Angeles? I’m sure all he needs to do is put a tweet out and the National League will listen.
But seriously, there needs to be a firm line taken on that or else we’re going to find ourselves at the mercy of those who want to broadcast.
I agree that Article 48 was brought in by Football League chairmen fearful of television companies in the 1970s and is therefore quite outdated, but there is more than a grain of common sense in its presence – let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, eh?
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