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The revolution will not be televised: life below the Premier League

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Mark Thompson
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott Heron

What's that you say? You want to watch your (lowly) non-Premier League team play their matches occasionally? How dare you! The use of your eyes to partake in the football experience is reserved only for the for upper classes. Never mind that there are often exciting contests in leagues below the top flight.

Forget for a second the other worries of non-Premier League football: the reduced income from TV deals, ticket sales, quality of refereeing, quality of play, quality of pitches, so on and so forth. Without those concerns, one of the greatest issues for fans of teams in leagues like the nPower Championship is the simple inability to watch their teams play on a weekly (or even monthly) basis.

Sure, you could go to the ground and watch the match in person, season ticket prices aren't that bad (Bolton Wanderers charge £175 for an adult season ticket, the rough equivalent of £15 per match). But what about away matches? Again, assuming that you're in the Greater Manchester area, you can make more than a few without much travel. Yet there are the multiple trips to London, the coast, and just about everywhere else. Tickets to those matches plus the cost of travel and the time it takes (Bolton to Brighton is a 4.5 hour trip each way without adding time on for traffic) add up and add up quickly.

The issue again is that these games are not televised. Sure, the Football League do show some games, with "some" being the operative word. A look at the TV schedule (here) will show you that on average, two matches per week are shown live from the whole of the Championship, League One, or League Two. To put that into perspective, that's four teams from a potential list of 72 that make the cut every week. That's 5.55% of the possible matchups being shown.

Bolton fans have actually been on the luckier end of this and have been able to see four matches through live video:

  1. Burnley away
  2. Nottingham Forest home
  3. Sheffield Wednesday away
  4. Cardiff City home

That's it. 26 other matches have happened and the best Bolton Wanderers fans got out of it was a minute (if that) of highlights on the Football League Show. That, in itself, is the epitome of everything wrong with treatment of football below the Premier League. The FLS is, in essence, a poor excuse for a league roundup as they show a couple of the goals and nothing else. No insight, no analysis. Nothing.

Then we get to the FA Cup. In this day and age, it should be considered unacceptable that streaming options for a 140-year-old competition do not even exist. Fine, don't put it on TV, space is limited, but at least give us the option to watch. There were 32 matches drawn for the FA Cup Third Round. 11 of those went to a replay after the first ties ended square. Of those 11, ITV elected to show two: Arsenal v. Swansea and Manchester United v. West Ham Unted. The remaining nine games? Impossible to watch unless you were at the ground and making the trip on a cold, Tuesday night isn't exactly appealing. Bolton Wanderers brought 280 fans to the Stadium of Light.

Again, this wouldn't have been so bad if highlights were available in a timely fashion. But no, because the competition is treated like it's still 1930, highlights finally became available more than 24 hours after the match. Fans had to wait up to watch ITV's recap show, which in itself was an hour of rubbish and ads. For the first 40 minutes, two thirds of the show, they bothered to showcase, analyze, and discuss the Manchester United/West Ham & Arsenal/Swansea games. The two games that were on TV. The two games that people could actually watch.

For the remaining 20 minutes, the people in the studio threw "highlights" from the remaining nine games at the wall. Bolton's 2-0 win away to Sunderland was given 15 seconds (at most) of match time and then a tiny bit more to hear Dougie Freedman and Martin O'Neill speak after the fact. It's as if ITV, the Football League, and the other powers at be simply don't recognize that these teams could have fans outside of England because, guess what, the highlights on ITV's website are geo-blocked and impossible to watch unless you are in the UK (or running through a virtual private network).

In short, we just want to watch our teams. Is it unfathomable that there are fans outside of these clubs' respective city limits? For Bolton fans abroad, the only option to follow matches live is a £5 / month subscription service to listen to radio broadcasts. It's not good enough.