Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Konferenz is the future of TV football in England (isn’t it?)

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on December 15, 2009
Sky Sports Studio

Whilst fans in Germany watch the football, fans in England watch ex-footballers talk about the football

As an Englishman who has always valued the sacred kick-off time of 15:00 every Saturday afternoon it also seems that the English football authorities value it in much the same way. Throughout England at that time every weekend the whistle sounds and the action kicks off in many stadiums throughout the country. That’s great, yet for those who can’t go to the match or would like to watch it on television it’s ironic that the most popular time for football in England is the one time that you can’t watch any of it live on English television. After my many recent trips to Germany in the last couple of years it is more obvious than ever that the German tradition of allowing fans to watch the action live on the “Konferenz” channel is exactly what the English football fan needs more than ever, especially when one looks at the alternative.

The main argument from the English football authorities for the lack of TV action every Saturday (from 15:00-17:00) is that most matches in all four English professional divisions begin at this time and to have significant television coverage of the Premier League will have a detrimental affect on attendances in the lower divisions. For me there are two arguments against this. Firstly loyal fans will always go to the games whether they are live on TV or not, unless they’re unable to buy a ticket for a sold out game. Secondly, in this age of technology and greater media influence within the game of football, how difficult can it be for Sky Television or ESPN (the broadcast rights holders for Premier League matches) to have cameras at every game showing viewers the action live on Saturday? The cameras are there in any case for various highlights packages within the UK and for live screening of such games to overseas markets. After all Sky TV has been able to manage this perfectly on the final matchday of each Premier League season. Even then they only show one or two main games and show goals in a tiny section of the screen when goals are scored elsewhere. It would be great if this approach could be further enhanced every week on English screens by replicating what German television does every Saturday from 15:30-17:30 (their sacred football kick-off time).

In Germany the broadcast rights holders of the Bundesliga (ironically Sky has just acquired the rights in Germany too) have a service which allows TV viewers to either pick the game of their choice (like Sky TV in the UK allows for the Champions League) or, if you’re a neutral who just wants to see bits of each match, you can see the goals and other major events as they happen on the “Konferenz” channel. The coverage will start at what the broadcaster deems to be “Das Spiel des Tages” (Game of the Day) and from there the coverage will switch from game to game depending on when goals are scored or other significant events happen (e.g. a penalty kick given; a red card shown to a player etc). This is especially a great way to watch the day’s events unfold when there are goals flying in all over the place. Any argument that this would affect attendances is countered by the fact this coverage exists in a country which has consistently had the largest crowds in Europe for the last six years. As an added bonus for fans of lower league teams there are similar Konferenz shows at various times on any given weekend which are dedicated to the second and third professional leagues. Therefore if the English authorities were to learn from their German counterparts then they can spread the fixtures out more evenly over the weekend and give each division its own time slot(s).

In Germany this has helped maintain excellent coverage with an even spread of airtime for the lower divisions as well as the top flight. With the money and TV coverage in England at an all-time high at the same time as attendances have stayed consistently high since the Premier League began, then the notion that Saturday afternoons should be a football-free zone on television is clearly not in keeping with modern trends. However what Sky shows in Germany is in stark contrast to what Sky UK shows at the same time, a service going from game-to-game as events happen (sounds familiar?) but, instead of actual football action, we see four ex-professional footballers commentating on games that the viewer can’t see on their screens. Listening to these ex-footballers, whilst being deprived of the action, sounds more like a conference than a Konferenz.

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