James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Supporters deserve to know where their club stands on the Championship TV deal debate

The silence, unless you happen to live with earshot of Aston Villa, Derby County and particularly Leeds United, is absolutely deafening.Â

Friday, 23rd November 2018, 11:58 am
Updated Friday, 23rd November 2018, 12:04 pm
Supporters should know where their club stands on certain issues

It is extremely disappointing, given the cost of their plan will ultimately be borne by supporters. Because, although we all know what happens when you make an assumption, I think it's safe to say the proceeds are not being earmarked for ticket subsidies, free travel or compensation packages for those whose plans are wrecked when television companies change the fixture schedule.

Earlier this week, when the English Football League signed a new agreement with SKY, the mood among clubs at Championship level was said to be mutinous. One headline, in a famously sober publication, even described the decision as inviting civil war; so great was the opposition from a number of clubs who believed £595m across a five year period represents a gross undervaluation of the competition's worth.

The trouble is, barring representatives from Villa Park, Pride Park and Elland Road, we do not know who they are. Approaches have been made to those in our region. But neither Sheffield United nor Sheffield Wednesday have felt able to elaborate on where they stand. Given some of the things the refuseniks are proposing, including a breakaway division, the people who make these clubs what they are - the fans - surely deserve to know?

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Admittedly, failing to state one's position publicly could be advantageous as folk jockey for position, look to build alliances and increase their influence. Indeed, having spoken to several of those involved in Monday's announcement, the objections are more diverse and nuanced than some media outlets have portrayed. 

Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani has no problem nailing his colours to the mast however, although, given the Italian is also the chairman and founder of channel Eleven Sports, you could say he has either expert insight or vested interest in weakening SKY's grip. Quite possibly, even, both.

Radrizzani has not suggested his own company should screen EFL matches. But, for the basis of argument, lets pretend he has. Subscriptions to Eleven Sports are available for £5.99 a month or £59.99 annually. Given most viewers are locked into contracts with one of the three bigger providers, and would be watching via another online platform, they would be compelled to shell out more if they wanted to follow their own team.  

I'm not suggesting SKY should become a lifelong EFL partner in order to keep costs for supporters down. Nor making any judgement on the wisdom of the governing body's stance. Simply, because things like this have implications for the people they purport to represent, calling for those tasked with negotiating on behalf of individuals teams to canvass the public's opinion and be more transparent. Because, let's get this right, what they are actually squabbling about is how much more money they can squeeze out of our pockets.