Brexit. It’s the word on the lips of most every Briton in the world right now – as it has been for the last two years. The uncertainty around what it is and what it will mean for the country is still staggering – especially when you consider that the deadline for Article 50 is just two short months away.
As well as what it will mean for things such as trade agreements and the Northern Ireland backstop, football fans across the country are still unsure for what it will mean for the Premier League and football as a whole.
According to football journalist Chris Waugh, one thing it could very well mean for football fans in England is an increase in the amount of football you have to watch through online streaming services.
“It could well lead to more online streaming services. I suppose the advantage of streaming services like Amazon Prime or even Facebook has is that they don’t necessarily have the same national constraints that the likes of BT or Sky do. Their platforms can broadcast to various different countries all at once and they already operate in a lot of these countries across the EU and in Britain.
“We probably will see a move towards that – I think that’s probably going to occur anyway. That’s an inevitable direction that sport is moving in, but this could well quicken the pace of it because of the financial cloud these companies have over say Sky or BT. Amazon and Google or whoever have such huge resources so for them it could become a lot easier.”
A problem that many face when they use streaming services in the United Kingdom is the connection. The United Kingdom ranks just 35th in the world when it comes to average connection speeds with countries such as Andorra, Estonia and Taiwan all having significantly better coverage. So maybe the coverage in the UK isn’t good enough to support this “inevitable direction” Chris thinks the sport is moving in. The head of Sky Sports’ planning department, Haydn McKenzie, certainly thinks that is the case.
“The huge challenge for that format of broadcasting live sport in the UK is our broadband and internet infrastructure which is still a long way from supporting the quality level of streaming that the customers, rights-holders and rights-sellers demand on a national level. I think that’s the biggest obstacle in play at the moment rather than Brexit. People want the Premier League. It’s the best product.”
Watching football in the United Kingdom is already an expensive luxury that not all of us football fans can afford. When/if Brexit goes through, we could see another rise in subscription prices for customers of Sky Sports and BT Sports. As the costs the companies incur rise, then it seems likely that the costs we incur will also rise.
“If we do exit the European Union and it isn’t necessarily a seamless exit, then their (BT and Sky Sports) could start to rise. This situation could apply for the majority of games and, as we know, most of these games are based in eastern and central Europe therefore, we could see subscription prices rise if BT sports costs rise” says Chris Waugh.
“If their costs go up then the likelihood is that will be passed onto consumer. This could mean that the consumer may decide to view it less meaning that long term European football could become less lucrative. Who knows further down the line they may decide to find other revenue streams. You never know, they may decide to form this European super league which has been suggested.”
Sky Sports’ Haydn McKenzie didn’t want to be drawn into a conversation about whether or not this would lead to their prices rising, but he did speculate as to what it would mean for capitalism as a whole:
“When businesses incur additional costs, the capitalist model dictates that almost all of those costs are passed on to customers. We are a profit-making company in a profit-making society and there are some realities that if you are not profitable then you will cease to exist and that’s not exclusive to Sky or BT.”
Could the quality of reporting diminish?
Journalists in Europe are in a good situation in that they can get from country to country without much standing in their way. If there’s a breaking news story in Berlin, for example, then the journalists can be on the ground in Berlin reporting on that story within a few hours.
The impact of Brexit and the ever-growing likelihood of a no deal Brexit would see an end to freedom of movement, which would make this a lot more difficult. Haydn McKenzie believes this would be a “worst case scenario” for Sky Sports News and their consumers:
“If we get into a worst-case scenario where we’ve got 25 different EU countries all imposing different customs arrangement and different movement of people arrangements or even if it’s a universal EU arrangement where we have to pay a customs fee and get a visa it’s going to have an impact.
“We’re a quality service and around the big stories, we want to add a richness to our coverage with the images our cameras can capture but also in the information our reporters can share to our customers.”
Chris Waugh shares these sentiments. He believes that journalism is always at its best when you have somebody there in person. “It’s all about speed, but also still accuracy and I think if you don’t have someone who is actually there with their feet on the ground actually covering it on the front line then the demand for content is still there, but you don’t have the journalists themselves in place to be able to best source the information. Yes, you can still make phone calls but to actually have someone who is physically there is far better.”