New Sky Deal: Is It Worth It?

The timing of Tuesday’s announcement of the new EFL TV deal with Sky Sports was interesting: all three EFL divisions had almost full midweek programmes and it was almost exactly three months since the Financial Times published this:

‘Premier League football suffered the biggest drop in viewing on Sky TV for at least seven years, raising questions over the popularity of live sports as well as the sustainability of a lucrative source of funding for English clubs.’

If Premier League coverage has reached saturation point – and it appears it has – it’s now clear why Sky Sports rebranded their sports channels during the summer and are looking for a new revenue stream.

That’s us.

So what are we getting in just under two years then? With one major exception – which I’ll come to in a moment – it’s not much more than you’re currently getting with a Sky Sports subscription. They already broadcast games from the EFL, the League Cup and the EFL Trophy.

The first difference is that Sky Sports will be broadcasting ‘sixteen Championship games on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings’: to put that into context, this season there are five midweek programmes of at least ten games each (it’s not clear yet if Boxing Day will be part of the new deal), in which case the new deal means Sky Sports will be broadcasting just under a quarter of those games.

Clearly that’s more than now, but the issue here is which games on which evenings. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the ‘juicy’ games will be scheduled for broadcast against the Champions League games on BT Sport, which implies that Sky Sports might -at the very least – try to influence the EFL fixture computer. On the other hand, Sky Sports poor record of selecting live games in the Championship might continue: from tomorrow until the end of the month, five games are being televised: we going to be watching eighteenth placed Aston Villa twice, four clubs that are in currently the bottom half of the division and two derbies, only one of which (The Steel City Derby on 24th September) will feature teams currently in the top ten. And all of those teams have played in the Premier League at some point over the last two decades, which makes the match selection process look even lazier, doesn’t it!

As for the League Cup and the EFL Trophy, Championship sides don’t perform well in the former and aren’t even involved in the latter.

However, the unique selling point of this deal is being able to stream Championship games that aren’t (a) on a Saturday and (b) aren’t being televised by Sky via individual club websites. For my club for the duration of this season, that’s currently £110 a year and £12.50 a month: as there won’t be any league games between the end of May and the beginning of August, ten months at £12.50 will cost £15 more than an annual subscription. It’s important to remember that’s what it costs at the moment: it’ll be different in August 2019 anyway and may cost considerably more by then.

Once again, Sky Sports’ bottom line is profit, not necessarily what’s in the best interest of ordinary fans. This is where we come to another issue.

I’m happy to admit that how I watch – or should I say consume – football is a reflection of my age. I’m a season ticket holder at my local club and on average attend at least one or two away games a season. Having grown up with extremely limited options – BBC Radio, the weekly highlights programme on ITV and BBC, Ceefax – I like the idea I can get goal flashes on my mobile phone, but if I’m not at the game then as long as I know what the score is I don’t particularly care.

I have a Sky Sports subscription but I watch just as much Super League and NFL as I do Premier League: I always try to watch Championship and League One games because that’s why this blog and Buzzin’ League One football exist. If there’s a decent midweek game from the Championship on Sky Sports in a couple of years time, I’ll probably watch it if I can find the time.

But I’m not paying any more for that and I suspect I may not be alone.

A very brief look at this weekend’s action now. If I’d been writing a normal post, the game of the week would have been Cardiff City v Sheffield Wednesday, with Millwall v Leeds United and Birmingham City v Preston not far behind. Cardiff lost their unbeaten record earlier this week when they lost 3-0 at Deepdale, but it’s been over a decade since Wednesday won in the Welsh capital.

Don’t forget that next week there are several games in the League Cup featuring Championship teams: if anything dramatic happens I’ll update this post. Otherwise it’s business as usual next Friday, so enjoy the weekend.



Game Of The Week: Sheffield Wednesday v QPR

Some surprising results in the league last weekend, but it’s always worth remembering that nobody can be promoted or relegated after one game.

The midweek performances in the League Cup weren’t bad: only Preston were knocked out. Derby have to travel to Grimsby again after their game was abandoned after torrential rain.

Which brings me on to this week’s game of the week:

Sheffield Wednesday v QPR

Not sure if Wednesday’s opening day defeat at Preston is anything to be worried about, but they’ve only won five of their last ten at Hillsborough and are currently in the bottom three – albeit only on alphabetical order.

This will be a test for Rangers – they’ve only won one of their last ten away games and have lost all five of their last away games, failing to score in three of them.

Head to head: Wednesday have won six of the last ten games between the clubs at Hillsborough. The last QPR win in Yorkshire was in November 2009; Sheffield Wednesday were relegated at the end of that campaign.

There’s one televised game this weekend: Middlesbrough v Sheffield United (5:30pm tomorrow, Sky Sports Football) is their first meeting on Teeside for almost seven years; you’ve got to go back almost 20 years for the last time the Blades won at Middlesbrough.

Back on Tuesday for a look at the first midweek games of the season, but there won’t be a post next weekend due a couple of birthday celebrations. Further ahead, two of my three brothers in law have 40ths before the end of the year but I’ll let you know in advance when those will have an impact on the posts.

2017/18 Preview Part III

Here’s the third part of our club by club guide to the 2017/18 Sky Bet Championship season.

The odds for promotion and relegation were sourced from on July 1st and will fluctuate as the season progresses.

Leeds United
  • Manager: Thomas Christiansen (June 2017), eighth season in the Championship
  • Last 10: 2-4-4
  • Promotion 11/2, relegation 14/1

Their highest league position for six years – based on one of the best home defensive records in the competition – wasn’t enough to see United qualify for the playoffs and both the failure to reach the playoffs and the long anticipated change at boardroom level seem to have led to Garry Monk moving to one of the club’s immediate rivals. His successor is untried in English football and by the time he gets used to the Championship it’s possible Leeds may have a lot of ground to make up to reach the playoffs.

Fun fact: Leeds finished seventh in the old Second Division at the end of the 1922/23 season but went on to win the title at the end of the following campaign.

  • Manager: Garry Monk (June 2017), relegated from the Premier League
  • Last 10: 1-3-7 (Premier League)
  • Promotion 9/4, relegation: 50/1

On paper, Monk’s appointment is a solid one for a team that had clearly lost its way under Aitor Karanka and hasn’t won an away game since last August; and the speed with which he left Leeds indicates that Steve Gibson clearly knows what he wants. The chairman’s hands off approach has worked with his managers in the past but the big question is whether Brett Assombalonga is going to justify such a large fee. He’s never played a full season at any club and hasn’t managed over 40 games since 2012/13.

Fun fact: the last time both Middlesbrough and Sunderland were both relegated from the Premier League, they finished in second and third place in the second tier at the end of the following season. Only Middlesbrough were promoted: Sunderland lost to Charlton on penalties in the playoff final.

  • Manager: Neil Harris (March 2015), promoted from League One
  • Last 10: 6-2-2 (League One, including playoffs)
  • Promotion 33/1, relegation 5/4

Back after two seasons away, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lions respond to a promotion that looked unlikely for most of the season. The FA Cup run proved to both a distraction and inspiration, but their play off spot was only confirmed in the last game of the season and they seized the opportunity with both hands. Having written that, their away form in League One was average (they lost at two of the clubs that were eventually relegated) and they’ve only finished in the top half of the Championship once in the last decade. They proved last season that on their day they can beat anyone, but there’ll need to be quite a few of those days this season if Millwall want to stay out of a relegation dogfight.

Fun fact: Millwall’s last away win in the Championship was at Birmingham in February 2015.

Norwich City
  • Manager: Daniel Farke (May 2017), second season in the Championship
  • Last 10: 5-2-3
  • Promotion 7/2, relegation 40/1

To many neutrals, Alex Neil’s dismissal in March was harsh and seems to have been based on the idea that Norwich should have made more of their aim to win promotion back to the Premier League after an impressive start eventually came to nothing. Last season only Brighton and Reading won more points at home and nobody scored more goals in their home games than the Canaries; if you’re going to nitpick, their record against the teams that eventually finished above them wasn’t good enough, but with three of those sides missing this season and a couple of the others due to suffer playoff hangovers, Daniel Farke may find most of the spadework has been done for him, even though defensively they can be suspect.

Fun fact: last season only Brentford failed to score against Norwich in both league games

Nottingham Forest
  • Manager: Mark Warburton (March 2017), tenth season in the Championship
  • Last 10: 3-2-5
  • Promotion: 12/1, relegation: 11/2

Other than finally managing to sell the club in mid-May, Warburton’s appointment was arguably the best thing the Al-Hasawi family did since they took over at Forest. However, this is a far tougher job than either Brentford or Glasgow Rangers were and although now owner Evangelos Marinakis talks a good game, the Championship is not the Greek Super League. The club has been in decline for several seasons now and were one of the trio that faced relegation on the last day. I can only see this season going two ways: an improvement to mid-table levels or a total disaster from day one. Two away wins last season, the second worse defence in the section and the departure of Brett Assombalonga indicate the latter.

Fun fact: it’s been 19 seasons since Forest played in the Premier League, the longest time in the history of the club that it’s been outside the top tier.

Preston North End
  • Manager: Alex Neil (July 2017), Third season in the Championship
  • Last 10: 2-3-5
  • Promotion 12/1, relegation 5/1

Simon Grayson’s post-season departure for Sunderland made some sense, but I’ll be discussing that in the next post. Alex Neil’s appointment also makes sense in so far as he’s been successful at so-called unfashionable clubs: the former Norwich boss could provide the impetus that turns the Lillywhites from an average mid-table side into playoff challengers and he certainly won’t need motivating after his departure from Carrow Road. If that’s going to happen, North End really need to work on improving their away form against the top sides in the competition. In 2016/17 they lost seven of their ten matches at the clubs who eventually finished above them. That price for relegation looks far too short and should be avoided.

Fun fact: Despite have been founder members of the Football League, Preston have only finished eleventh in any division on four occasions – including twice in the last two seasons.