The last time any Aston Villa fan was able to watch their beloved team live was during their 4-0 loss away to Leicester City on Monday 9th March. You have to go back almost another month for the last live game at Villa Park, which was again, that disappointing loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
With the announcement made last week from the government, the uncertainty of when fans will be allowed back continues. Fans are likely to not be integrated back into stadiums for at potentially another six months, and even then only in small percentages.
The likelihood and hope is when fans return to Villa Park they’ll see a rather different Aston Villa. With some new and exciting attacking flair, but perhaps the most exciting thing to see will be Jack Grealish still playing in a Villa shirt. A sight fans doubted they’d ever see again.
So what does that mean for our participation in the game and how will we be able to watch live football going forward?
It seems that the officials who are running football, as yet, don’t have the answer to this questions either. This despite the Saturday football blackout, forbidding any game being televised between 2:45pm and 5:15pm, having been lifted since the return of football post-lockdown.
For the new season, it was announced that whilst fans are away from the game until October, every match would be continued to broadcast live over the four platforms (Sky Sports, Bt Sport, Amazon Prime, BBC). This significantly staggers the games kick off times, starting from Friday evening and showing pretty much straight through until Monday at 8pm. Villa fans in particular can complain at receiving the short straw so far, with both their opening games being broadcast at 6pm on a Monday evening.
Whilst no official announcement has been made yet, clubs are meeting in the coming days to discuss whether October’s games, like Septembers, will be broadcast live at no extra cost to the broadcasters.
For fans who were unable to buy season tickets, or perhaps live further away from the ground. Watching Aston Villa has never been so accessible. The reality of the situation is however, football in this current situation has never been so distant.
Whilst every game is broadcast, there is no guarantee which broadcaster will be showing which teams. Therefore, to watch every game, fans will need to subscribe to every channel. The price of this is not cheap. The average sports package is £18 a month for both Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Premier League, this on top of the basic sky package of £25 a month. On top of this you will need to add BT sports at an extra £20 per month, as well as an Amazon Prime membership for £7.99. With these prices, watching Aston Villa for the nine months the season covers, will cost upwards of £600. More than the most expensive season ticket.
Whilst this is a very black and white way to look at it, there are of course plenty of variables. The packages could fluctuate in price dependant on where you get them. This also includes all the games, not just the Aston Villa ones. And, of course, it doesn’t take into consideration the expense of attending a game. What these prices don’t include is the atmosphere and experience of attending a live game. Something all Villa fans will be hoping comes sooner rather than later.
The Saturday football black-out has been an outdated rule that has stood since the 1960’s. The argument was that if a Premier League game is shown live on a 3pm, fans of the lower league are less likely to go and instead watch the televised game. I think fans of all clubs would argue against that and acknowledge that no game on television will replace the experience of being at the game. The UK is the only country to follow this law, it’s well known that many countries around the world have access to more UK football than consumers in this country. It’s unclear what long-term impact this will have on the televising of games, with Sky trying to claw more and more games, and inevitably more and more power each year. Could the way football be broadcast in this country change permanently?