Lower-league clubs’ finances could do a vanishing act if we change the rules to televise the Portugal forward’s second debut at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday, writes Laura Lawrence.
There’s a whiff of the PT Barnum about Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the Premier League.
Roll up, roll up! Come and witness the artificially sculpted goal machine. You won’t believe your eyes …
Like Messi’s exit from Barcelona, the focus is less on the football Ronaldo will play but on the transfer itself. His first match has become THE over-advertised event of the football calendar. While media outlets began to respond to public questions about Ronaldo’s ongoing civil proceedings into an alleged sexual assault in 2009, the overall response remains about the spectacle of his return.
The latest take is that the 3pm television blackout should be removed in order for the whole world to see his glorious Mancunian resurrection against Newcastle. For context, UEFA statutes allow all football associations to prohibit the transmission of football for two and a half hours on Saturdays and Sundays. In England and Scotland this is between 2.45pm and 5.15pm.
While Premier League match-going supporters have long complained about how TV games inconvenience them with early and late kick-offs, the statute is in place in order to protect the whole football pyramid. This is more important in England because the attendances in the EFL and non-league are much higher than our European counterparts.
As lower and non-league clubs rely on ‘on-the-gate’ income, the blackout is designed to protect the traditional 3pm kick-off time. On a soggy Saturday in September, the temptation would be to sit and watch a live game in the comfort of your own living room rather than standing on an uncovered terrace with a rapidly cooling meat pie.
Associations lack the research to determine how much the 3pm blackout would affect the lower leagues financially but there is a reluctance to find out. When the ‘can’t be bothered’ casual fan doesn’t turn up because they’re watching Ronaldo make his return debut at Old Trafford, the pyramid won’t collapse. However, if that fan decides they can’t be bothered on five, six or seven occasions across the season then it does start to have an effect on the income lower-league clubs generate.
Of course, there will be arguments that football is too expensive and fans can’t afford to go every week. It’s a valid point. This makes television a less expensive option especially if you have a whole family to think about but with football rights spread across multiple subscription channels now, the chances of you watching your team week in, week out on TV has diminished anyway.
So, you can’t buy entry to the Ronaldo TV spectacular but it can be done the traditional way — by buying a ticket to the ground. The rest of us will have to wait at least two and a half hours before we can see it on television.
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR