Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

At a wedding a few years back a very gloomy looking guest, a well-known Geordie actor as it happens, arrived at the church door. 'What's up?' asked the small boy patrolling the entrance. 'Newcastle are playing this afternoon and I can't find out what's happening.' 'Give me your phone,' said the lad, who clicked a few clicks before handing it back. The match was now live on the screen, via some pub in Oslo or whatever. God knows what he could access now -- a transmission from Mars, presumably.

A revolution is taking place which could have apocalyptic effects on football. In an insightful Telegraph piece, Jim White analyses how illegal streaming could scupper football's TV bubble. Audiences for Sky's live Premier League matches have fallen 13 per cent on 2016 and by a quarter since 2010. Not because people don't want to watch football, but because they have found ways to avoid paying for it.

Any number of teenagers can connect you to a website, and if that one doesn't work there are five others. If you're not bothered about paying £70-odd a month to listen to Mike Phelan and Phil Neville whanging on, then welcome to the brave new world.

With Sky and BT subscribers scrapping contracts knowing their kids can get them the game, how will the TV giants afford multi-billion contracts? This could spell the end of Paul Pogba and his £90 million haircut. It could also spell the end of collective bargaining for rights: the big clubs will want their own deals, especially on mobile phone video goal alerts. But there's little evidence that the clubs are pulling their horns in. The money's still there, for a bit anyway, and a workaday player like Jake Livermore is the subject of a £10 million bid. He's a good and decent man with a difficult back-story, but £10 million? Seriously?

If you do fancy watching the game, whether at the ground, via pay-TV or that pub in Oslo, you'd hope the players would want to play. …

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