Saturday round-up: Sad stadia, PPV, and Covid risks

Morning all. A very quick Saturday Interlull round-up for you.

Let’s start with the official announcement that the pay-per-view system put in place by the Premier League has been scrapped … until the new year. In a statement yesterday, they said:

The Premier League today announces that all fixtures from Saturday 21 November, and throughout the Christmas and new year period, will be made available to fans to watch live in the UK. Working with our broadcast partners, and with the support of clubs, all matches will be shown via existing Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon and BBC services.

There is a full schedule of Premier League matches over the festive period and clubs are committed to an accessible solution for fans.

These plans have been made with the cooperation of our broadcast partners, working with us to deliver these additional matches while stadiums are missing the supporters who are such an integral part of the game.

I think it’s the right decision, but it won’t come as much comfort to those fans who paid over the odds to see their teams play, especially Arsenal supporters who saw us play two and lose two on PPV. Not that PPV is to blame, but in the deeply superstitious world of football fandom let’s do it away. Things are on the up, folks!

I also quite like the wording here: “… stadiums are missing the supporters who are such an integral part of the game.”

Doesn’t it conjure up wonderful images of sports arenas sitting around feeling miserable because they’re empty?

A mournful Emirates.

A woebegone Old Trafford.

A glum Anfield and a melancholic Goodison Park keeping each others spirits up across Stanley Park.

“How are you holding up there, Goody?”

“Not great to be honest. I really miss the feeling of thousands of people inside me at once.”


“Oh you!”

“There you go. Turn that frown upside down.”

Anyway, the Premier League will review things in the new year, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was a new effort at pay-per-view. I don’t really think concept was the main issue, it was more about the implementation and most of all the price point. Everyone recognises that clubs need income without ticket sales and all the associated revenue streams, but they failed to acknowledge that a large percentage of their audience are also struggling during this period.

On the plus side, the widespread, coordinated opposition to it from fans across the board demonstrated that there is a huge benefit to power of the collective. By its very nature football is tribal, we don’t easily associate with other fan-bases or groups of supporters, but when those things are laid aside, look at the impact we can have.

And let’s not forget that during difficult times, tens … perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds were raised for good causes up and down the UK. So, this iteration of PPV was an absolute disaster for the PL, the clubs and the broadcasters, but there was a positive outcome in other ways. Football – of which we as fans are a part – showed that despite the repeated attempts to strip it of every ounce of goodness to make a buck, it still has something of a soul left.

Elsewhere, Mo Salah has tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a family wedding, while Irish midfielder Alan Browne has also tested positive. He played against England the other night, with Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka in the team. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the so-called ‘Elite Sports Bubble’, which is supposed to be provide protection to players, but I have to say I’m looking at this particular Interlull with some trepidation.

The wisdom of playing these fixtures at the height of the pandemic’s second wave is questionable in itself because of the travel involved and the inherent risks involved in bringing players together from disparate parts of the world. The fact that extra, and completely unnecessary, fixtures were brought in just so national associations could squeeze out a bit of extra TV money is, frankly, appalling. It shows no consideration for the health and well-being of the players (both physically and because of greater exposure to Covid-19), the clubs, managers, or fans.

Fingers crossed that all our players on international duty come back safe and healthy – a full list of those involved can be found here.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Back tomorrow with more Interlull fun.

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