It’s a leap forward for armchair football fans everywhere and we have those lovely BT chaps to thank for it. The new kid on the fibre-optic broadband block has bust the bank to find £900 million to buy the rights to screen Champions League games instead of Sky and ITV sport.
How can we show our collective gratitude? By buying our broadband from them and opting to pay to watch games we now watch for free, of course. How grateful we are that BT have saved us the onerous task of changing channels from one night to the next to watch Rooney, Ozil, and Aguero scrap it out with Europe’s elite. Now we know where to find the games on one channel, it takes all the searching out of it for us poor, confused voyeurs.
Tim Lovejoy, whose relationship with football has never seemed totally sincere, is the new face of BT Champions League coverage which will begin in 2015. But if it wasn’t them it would be another broadcaster who nicks another bit of what has been our TV sports birthright since we watched Jimmy Greaves and Terry Dyson win the Cup Winners Cup for Spurs under dodgy floodlights in speckled black and white in 1963. Pay Per View in those days meant handing the turnstile operator your two bob to stand and watch the game.
Now it means having your house virtually re-wired, a new and even bigger monthly bill and no laugh-a-minute Roy Keane to cheer us up every Tuesday night. Soon the current deal for the rights to air Premier League games will also be up for grabs again.
Presumably BT will be gearing up to try and outbid Sky for the world’s most precious grail of goals and glory. The battle for TV rights is as convoluted and political as the battle for the league itself. The game that used to be known as The Peoples’ Game will finally become The People -Who-Can-Afford-It’s Game and the modern-day equivalent of the flat capped fan with a fag in the corner of his mouth and a bottle of beer in hand will have to live off the football scraps that BT deign to toss at him or her.
There is much that is good in the modern game though it took the death of 96 fans in this city for supporters to be treated like human beings. But there is also a cry for the soul of a football past that is all but gone. The brilliant Jonathan Liew in the Daily Telegraph calls the buy-up of what once belonged to the public as the ‘piecemeal commodification of our culture’. Spot on. In years to come young fans will roll their eyes and think us batty as we recount tales of live games for free on ‘proper’ telly.