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Comment: Is The 2016-17 Premier League Season Justifying Its Massive TV Rights Deal?

Tue 3rd Jan 2017 | Television & Broadcasting

The 2016-17 Premier League season has marked an enormous breakthrough for English football as Sky Sports and BT Sport have paid a record £5.136billion for the rights to broadcast the matches.

England’s top flight is now the richest football league in the world, and each game is worth £10.2million. How has the new deal affected the league and the clubs within it, and are the broadcasters getting their money’s worth?

Lowering of Ticket Prices

Since all the clubs in the top division have benefited from bumper payments of £81million each from the new deal, some have chosen to pass savings on to the customers by lowering ticket prices. This is something that fans have been protesting for years, with Liverpool fans staging a protest in the 77th minute of one of their matches last year in uproar over the proposed £77 tickets for seats in the new stand. Supporters of clubs whose ticket prices have fallen are ecstatic.

West Ham fans have left their beloved Boleyn Ground for the Olympic Stadium, but in an effort to soften the blow the club’s owners slashed the cost of tickets for the new home ground. At Upton Park the lowest season ticket cost £617.50, and this has been reduced by 53% to £289 for the new stadium. Hull City and Everton also reduced their prices. Man City are the biggest club to offer cheap entrance to games, with a season ticket to the Etihad Stadium costing a mere £299.

The Premier League has also introduced a price cap on away tickets for the next three years. Starting from next season, clubs won’t be allowed to charge any more than £30 to travelling fans. For fans of Category A clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal, this means they can actually save money by choosing to follow their teams on the road rather than at home.

Although massive changes haven’t been seen as yet, hopefully these small improvements will lead to more clubs following suit in the future. Having supporters at the games is imperative, but many people nowadays are finding it easier and cheaper to watch from home.

More Exciting Games

For £10.2million per game the TV companies will want bang for their buck. Leicester City’s amazing title win last season showed how exciting football can be, and that anything can happen. But the 2015-16 campaign quickly turned into a one horse race and the Foxes ran away with it. This season so far has involved more drama, as both ends of the table remain tight. The main source of intrigue is who will win the title, but the battle to avoid relegation can also be a spectacle. The 2016-17 campaign is providing tantalising viewing on these counts.

The individual matches have been pretty special as well, including some absolute goal fests. Two of the most notable matches were the 5-4 war between Swansea and Crystal Palace at the Liberty Stadium, and the 4-3 thriller between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium.

Research from Oddschecker has found that matches in general have produced more goals this season than before. Between game weeks 10-14 there was an average of 3.2 goals per game. In the 2015-16 season there were 2.7 per match, and in the campaign prior to that there were 2.57 goals per match.

One of the reasons why there have been more goals this season could be because of the stricter rules on pulling shirts and pushing players in the box. Referees have been told to crack down and award penalties for anything untoward. There had already been 57 penalties awarded this season after 17 games, compared to 91 in the entirety of last year’s campaign.

In 2014-15 there were even fewer, with 83 in total over 38 rounds of fixtures. These tighter rules have also resulted in more cautiousness from defenders during set plays and corners, and a lot of goals are coming from dead ball scenarios. The Swansea v Palace clash highlights that fact, with seven of the nine goals in that game coming from corners or free kicks.

Bigger Spending in the Transfer Window

The new deal has allowed some of the smaller clubs to bring in better players in the transfer window, and a few sides broke their transfer records last summer. Crystal Palace signed Christian Benteke for £27million and Andros Townsend for £13million. Prior to that their most expensive signing had been Yohan Cabaye for £10million in the summer of 2015.

Elsewhere, West Brom acquired Nacer Chadli from Tottenham Hotspur for a record £13million, Bournemouth bought Jordon Ibe from Liverpool for £15million, Swansea brought in Borja Baston from Atletico Madrid for £15.5million, and Watford signed Roberto Pereyra from Juventus for £13million.

Not all of these signings have been successful, but what they underline is the fact that it is no longer just the richest clubs that can swoop for the top players. With the extra money, smaller clubs now have the chance to make clever signings and gain a stronger foothold in the league that way. Leicester proved how this can be done with the amazingly cheap deals for Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and N’Golo Kante, all of whose value has increased massively since the Foxes’ title win.

So far, the new TV deal has seemingly been beneficial for the Premier League and the teams within it. The clubs could, and should be doing more to lower ticket prices for fans, though, and big changes need to occur in the next few years for people to start saying that this TV deal was a good thing for English football.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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