The Premier League claims that fans are the lifeblood of the game and it would be nothing without them. However, some of their actions make you wonder if they really mean that. Mega TV deals mean the Premier League has prioritized the broadcasters at the expense of fans. Despite the influx of enormous amounts of money, already sky-high ticket prices continue to rise, making it more cost-prohibitive to attend a match. Moreover, matches are routinely rescheduled for the sake of TV broadcasts, oftentimes after tickets to the match have already sold out, thus making it difficult to confirm travel arrangements, or sometimes meaning those who bought a ticket can no longer attend the match.
An example: a friend of mine here in the States who also supports Arsenal thought he’d finally have the opportunity to watch the Gunners play in person during a short layover in London on the way to a business trip in Ireland. He joined as a member and bought a ticket for the Arsenal-West Brom match scheduled for May 3. Four days later, it was announced that due to TV, the match had be rescheduled to May 4. That meant he’d either have to shell out an extra $500 to change his flight and accommodations, or forgo the match after having gone through all that effort just to secure a ticket.
The latest middle finger shown to fans, and one that was especially egregious, was Sky Sports deciding on April 11 to move Arsenal’s match away to Hull City from Saturday to Sunday a mere eight days before the match was to take place! Sky did this because Chelsea was drawn to play away to Atletico Madrid this past Tuesday in the Champions League, so they swapped the game times of Hull-Arsenal and Chelsea-Sunderland, which was scheduled to be played on Sunday April 20.
As an Arsenal supporter living in California, I was none too pleased to hear of this scheduling change, and it was about more than Arsenal’s recent string of early away kickoff debacles (1-5 at Liverpool, 0-6 at Chelsea, 0-3 at Everton). This meant that I would lose three hours of sleep and instead have to wake up earlier for a 6:00 am kickoff here in the Pacific Time zone (on the bright side, it’s still better than those obscenely early 4:45 Saturday morning kickoffs). However, this inconvenience to me was nothing compared to that experienced by those Arsenal fans traveling to Hull for the match. No doubt they had made travel arrangements several weeks ago anticipating a Saturday evening match. Besides the cost of the match ticket itself, they had to shell out money out of pocket for train tickets and accommodations. Those fans with kids probably had to make special arrangements for them to be looked after too. Not to mention, people had also most likely already made plans for Easter Sunday. And now, with the match eight days away, those plans all went out the window and they were stuck scrambling to make new arrangements at the last minute, forced to spend even more out of pocket as prices would be sky-high so close to the date. I’m guessing many of them had to shell out at least an extra few hundred quid when it was all said and done. As of yet, there are no indications the fans will be able to get any recompense for additional travel expenses due to Sky’s last minute scheduling change. Quite simply, fans had a choice: accept the extra cost and inconvenience to follow the team they love, or stay home and watch their team play…on Sky, the entity who screwed them in the first place.