You may have noticed that we have recently been quite active on Twitter with a couple of polls to gauge opinion on standing and live streaming. This is because we have the chance to feedback opinion to the FSF (Football Supporters Federation) and the EFL on these subjects and we must say it is good to see consultation taking place on subjects like these. Hopefully this will mean that supporter views will be taken into account when decisions are made.
Standing – We have long been advocates of supporters having the choice of standing or sitting and in our view the current regulations are outdated and unnecessary. You may recall a few years ago we pushed strongly for a standing trial at Blundell Park with a view to introducing a standing section. We were very disappointed when the DCMS (Department of culture, media and sport) ruled that in the event of the club gaining promotion back to the EFL any standing facility (even a trial) would have to be either converted back to seating or not used at all. This goes back to the fact that our licence with the EFL is for an all seater stadium which was implemented when we had to convert to all seater in 1995 because we were a Division 1 (now Championship) club. As things stand this can only be changed by a new law. Furthermore, we were informed that in the event of us moving to a new stadium the licence moves with us and therefore would also be all seater. This is clearly illogical and hopefully things will have moved on before that time.
The views of the fans are very clear in that there is sizeable group, maybe as high as a third, who would rather stand than sit. The vast majority of the rest, even though they want to sit, agree that there should be a standing facility. Not many think we should remain all seating.
At last there seems to be will from the authorities for reform in this area and we are very hopeful that change will come sooner rather than later with the introduction of various forms of standing areas at likes of Shrewsbury, Cardiff and Oxford. Let’s hope common sense prevails.
Live Streaming of EFL games – As you may be aware the EFL introduced a facility this season to be able to watch a live stream of midweek games and any Saturday games outside of the 2.24-5.15pm window for a fee of £10. Controversially, it also transpires that the Saturday ruling doesn’t apply for the International break weekends and in those weeks the 3pm ko games can also be shown. These rules are for UK based customers as fans living abroad can already buy an annual season ticket for around £110 which enables viewing of all games.
Like many fans we are very worried about the Saturday “loophole” could well be the start of a move to stream all games live. The obvious worry is that the move to live streaming will result in reduced attendances particularly when away fans have a long journey or when the weather conditions are cold and wet, and it is easier and cheaper to watch from the comfort of your home. For this reason, we decided to do a quick poll and to be honest we were quite surprised by the results and does highlight some potential benefits. The results were as follows:
In total 631 votes which represents a good sample size.
32% think games should never be streamed
26% thought it was ok for midweek but not Saturday
9% thought it was also ok on Saturday provided it is outside of 2.45-5.15pm
33% thought all games should be streamed
It was the latter result that was a little surprising and so we asked those who voted that way whether they were local or exile expecting the majority to be exile. Again surprisingly, only 50% were exile and the other 50% local. As we reviewed the comments it is clear that live streaming is a great way for exiles to follow the club and we believe through other work we have done that we have a higher proportion of exile fans than most. We also know as a group they want to be a bigger part of the club and be more involved. From the local fans point of view the key issues were around costs and availability eg child or elderly care duties.
Without ignoring the local element, it would be good if there was a possibility of restricting streaming of home games to outside a certain radius of the Town, but we are not sure that technically that is possible. We already have a situation where people are getting around the rules by using a VPN to access as if abroad. Also, we are aware that some are finding free streams via IPTV and the like. There is then the situation that certain local pubs have been showing game live despite being asked not to.
The finances of this are interesting in that it benefits away clubs as they start to get income that previously would have gone to the home team. From our point of view, we would probably benefit overall because on average we take more fans away than we have visiting us. For example, if 200 fans decide not to go to Mansfield next week and watch on I follow instead the change in finance would be as follows.
Mansfield lose 200 x say £15 = -£3,000 plus a probable reduction in home fans
Town gain 200 x £8 (80% of £10) = +£1600
The argument from the EFL is that what it does is increase the overall reach and opens up the match for many more fans to watch thereby increasing the popularity of the game overall.
The worry remains that over time more and more fans will join the hordes of other armchair fans and that attendances will fall and the matchday experience will diminish. We are particularly worried that more younger fans will see this as the way to watch football. The challenge for clubs will be to improve the matchday experience to the extent that supporters will continue to go to live games even if they are being streamed.
This is a very important and interesting topic and one we will ensure we are fully involved in with both with the club and the authorities. Hopefully we will soon have some initial information on the levels of subscriptions which we enable us to look more closely at the overall impact.
AGM – Reminder that this year’s AGM takes place in the Trust bar this Wednesday 31st October 2018 starting at 7pm. After the formal meeting we will have an open meeting which gives chance to discuss some of these and other issues. All welcome but only members can take part in the actual AGM.
Finally, the Youth team are at home tonight (30th October) in the FA Youth Cup v Mansfield at Blundell Park ko 7pm. Admission is just £3 for Adults and £1 for concessions. It would be great for these youngsters if there was a good crowd there to support them.
Mariners Trust Board.