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Football fans getting a ‘raw deal’ from Premier League TV deal, says Virgin

Thursday, October 22nd 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Three quarters of English football fans (77%) want to see more live Premier League games available on TV.

Research commissioned by Virgin Media, which quizzed more than 1,000 football fans, found that two thirds of them thought the soaring cost of Premier League rights means they will pay too much to watch live football.

Just 6% said they were able to watch every match they wanted to on TV at home, while 73% said they would watch more games if they were available on TV.

The research comes nearly a year after Ofcom launched an investigation into the sale of Premier League rights following a complaint by Virgin that the way in which the rights to live games are sold is breaching competition law.

In February, Sky and BT secured the rights to televised Premier League matches for the following three seasons as part of a £5.13bn deal.

The broadcasters were named as the winners in the Premier League TV rights auction, each securing a share of the 168 live matches on offer, with Sky getting 75% of televised matches.

Virgin said the deal meant less than half of the 380 games (44%) would be shown on UK television.

According to the poll, just 13% of football supporters thought fans will benefit from the new rights deal, while 53% thought the main beneficiary will be the FA.

70% of football fans said it’s unfair that they have to buy both Sky and BT bundles or add-ons to watch the games they want to see, with 73% saying they would watch more games if they were available on TV.

Asked what they do if they cannot afford subscriptions to watch live Premier League games, or if their own team’s games are not shown on UK television, 28% said they miss the match altogether.

20% said they watch games at the pub and 13% said they stream matches via a website they don’t need to pay for.

'Show the red card'

Virgin CEO Tom Mockridge said: “Football fans are getting a raw deal. They pay the highest prices in Europe to watch top-flight football on TV yet are denied some of the best matches.

“Ofcom should show the red card to the Premier League and the way in which TV rights are sold in the UK.”

Ofcom previously announced that it would carry out its own consumer research as part of its investigation.

It said it would canvas the views of fans who attend matches and those who watch them on TV, and look at the value placed by viewers on Premier League football.

Virgin’s original complaint raised concerns about the number of Premier League matches for which live broadcast rights are made available, arguing that this number – 41% – is lower than other leading European leagues.

The complaint alleges that this leads to consumers paying more for pay TV packages that include premium sports channels.

Virgin said the number of games shown in the UK has increased by 21% over the last eight years, compared to a 200% hike in the price of rights.

Commenting specifically on the Ofcom investigation, Mr Mockridge added: “It’s time Ofcom decides whether an auction structure based on now expired commitments agreed in 2006 justifies a self-determined exemption from competition law.

“The results surely speak for themselves, over the same period the cost of live TV rights have rocketed by nearly 200%."

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