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Ofcom to canvas fans as part of Premier League investigation

Regulator Ofcom is to seek out the opinions of football supporters as part of its ongoing investigation into how the Premier League sells its domestic TV rights. No prizes for guessing how fans are likely to respond.

Ofcom’s investigation into televised football began in November after Virgin Media made a complaint to the watchdog over the current joint selling arrangement of TV rights, which it claims is in breach of free competition laws.

A survey commissioned by VM recently found that 83 per cent of football fans felt that the prices being charged by broadcast rights holders Sky and BT prevented them from being able to watch the sport on TV. The results of Virgin’s survey were passed to Ofcom, and the regulator has decided to follow up with some research of its own.

Ofcom plans to poll fans to find out their feelings on the ever-increasing expense of watching the beautiful game, both at home and at football grounds up and down the country. The regulator will also be looking to speak with supporters groups, the Police, broadcasters and the football clubs themselves, in order to get a full view of the state of play.

Virgin’s original complaint shone a spotlight on how UK viewers are expected to pay more than anyone else in Europe to watch the sport, and for their considerable outlay they’re given access to fewer matches than supporters in other countries, who are typically able to watch every top-flight game.

In order to get access to more games, some UK residents have purchased foreign satellite viewing cards. Legal complaints have of course ensued, as rights holders look to maintain their exclusivity.

A number of suggestions have been made for how to balance things to ensure that supporters get access to more football for their money, including the simultaneous broadcast of games on BT and Sky and the abolition of the so-called 3pm blackout, which has been in place since the 1960’s.

Ofcom’s ruling, when it comes, could finally give British football fans a choice on how they watch their team and could even see them pay less money for access to more matches – something which every fan would celebrate.

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