Ofcom closes investigation into Premier League football rights

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The FSF welcomes today’s [Monday 8th August 2016] announcement by Ofcom that it will close its investigation into how the Premier League sells live UK media rights for Premier League matches.

The investigation was opened in November 2014 and asked whether the selling arrangements of the Premier League restricted or distorted competition.

The FSF was consulted and wrote to Ofcom in December 2014 making three key points: 1. There is strong fan support for the principle of collective selling; 2. That supporters back the 3pm Saturday broadcast blackout; and 3. The majority of match-going fans oppose any significant increase in the total number of matches televised live each season.

Ofcom’s decision to close the investigation means that two of those points were heeded.

Collective selling remains – this enables more equitable income distribution between clubs in the Premier League, thereby helping to maintain a genuine competitive edge within the competition.

Saturdays 3pm “closed period” for live broadcasting also survives – this is crucial to the economic survival of many clubs lower down the football pyramid.

Sadly, there will be an increase of at least 22 matches per season come 2019/20 although Ofcom says it has listened to fans – the number could have been higher and the increase might have happened earlier were it not for this.

The FSF also welcomes the fact that for the first time, explicit recognition has been given of the need to consider the interest of match-going fans.

Ofcom says: “We believe that a balance would need to be struck between the potential benefits of releasing more matches for live broadcast, and the potential disruption on match-going fans due to these games being rescheduled to be broadcast outside of the ‘closed period’.”

Ofcom says it took into account the results of “consumer” research it carried out to understand the preferences of match-going fans and those watching on TV in relation to Premier League matches.

According to this research a fifth of fans said they wanted to see more matches televised live. Flip this on its head and it means 80% of fans don’t want to see more matches televised live.

Among match-going fans a high proportion said that the day of the week and kick-off time was of high importance, with more than two-thirds of this group identifying Saturday 3pm as their preferred kick-off time.

Full details of the research are available here.