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The Media's influence on Football
A Brief Overview of Media and its History within Sport (Football)
"The main means of mass communication (Television, Radio and newspapers) regarded collectively" (OxfordDictionary.com) This definition is perhaps outdated as new forms of mass communication have come along in the form of internet and wireless technology.
The effect of media upon football has grown increasingly over time. In the early days of competitive English football in the 19th century, there was little or no media coverage. Television sets were extremely rare and expensive and there was initially only one broadcasting station based in London, with a very small distribution radius.
Sporting events were published in local newspapers and information printed in match programmes to be purchased from the grounds themselves. The transport and distribution system was yet to be sufficient enough to distribute news nationally. The speed limit for motor vehicles was below 10mph in the 19th and early 20th centuries, therefore the only games the average person got to see or hear about, was ones in which they attended live in person, generally locally, as travelling was exclusive. The other option was to read about local teams, in the local newspaper. Therefore many people supported their most local team, whereas now in the 21st century teams such as Manchester United enjoy great support from a large fan base in continents such as Asia, largely due to the availability of the near global, premier league coverage via television and internet. This has led to increased sales of club merchandise which has further drove the development of club facilities and contributes towards attracting better and more expensive players.
This is an obvious benefit to the club and the sport, they have been able to expand their reach, reputation and fan base. However not all effects of the media are positive ones and there are some issues it raises. Prior to the start of a new calendar year of obligatory Barclays premier league fixtures (notice the word Barclays in there), the club typically arranges a series of non competitive games in order to bring their players back to fitness. However the 2010/2011 pre season of Manchester United was spent touring East Asia, playing fixtures against their local teams. This was a savvy move from the financial men of the club, this way they could maintain and increase their East Asia support and merchandising figures.
The Manchester United finance executive has recently said that they have an estimated fan base of 656 Million Worldwide and 325 Million of this figure is from East Asia alone, this illustrates the globalisation of the sport, that a football team based in Manchester in England is followed and supported by that of people halfway round the world in a different continent.
In arranging their pre season fixtures in East Asia they excluded a large percentage of their UK fan base, from being able to see the games in person, as travel and accommodation to East Asia is not financially viable for the average UK fan. The TV coverage of the fixtures were exclusively for paying subscribers to the satellite channel 'MUTV', preventing a quota of UK fans from seeing any coverage at all.
This raises the concern that media and finances surrounding it are excluding fans and that the sport of football within the UK is no longer a sport for the people and the regular man. Pre media explosion the pre season friendlies would have been arranged with other local teams and the fans would have been able to travel at minimal costs to a game where ticket prices would have been cheaper as competition for them would have been smaller, thanks to a smaller more localised fan base.
So where an increase in media has led to the nationally recognised leagues and their top clubs to a larger fan base and games to be televised on satellite channels.
Matches were originally filmed using one camera for recording, this led to comic Harry Enfield producing a sketch of England football matches in black and white where the majority of the shots were of people in the crowd with interspersions of game action but always missing the goals. This was then broadcasted via antenna regionally and then progressing to nationally.
The introduction or satellite then allowed games to be distributed globally, 24 hours a day.
Football games were initially shown on terrestrial TV, free to the masses, providing people paid a small fee in relation to today’s satellite costs, to the BBC for licensing.
Rights to broadcast were then bought by key satellite companies such as SKY. SKY then bought the rights for the sole exclusivity of broadcasting the games. This then prohibited the BBC from broadcasting full football games covered by SKY and limited them to showing highlights only. This embargo exists even within BBC's ability to broadcast footage via media in the form of internet and not even popular highlights show 'Match of the day' isn't available on the BBC's on demand iPlayer system for viewing after its original broadcasting. This embargo restricts fans from viewing even the highlights should they be unable to watch the show live, even though viewers of non football programmes have not the same restrictions upon them.
Football fans within the UK wishing to watch a full season of their team’s fixtures on TV would have to purchase sky sports 1,2,3,4 and ESPN, this would cost you an estimated £50 a month. This much higher revenue that is taken from spectators than with the BBC, allows a better quality of broadcast. A percentage of the money for the rights to air matches is given to the teams participating within them. The amount is typically agreed upon at the beginning of each calendar season, the more games in combination with the prestige of the games and their potential to draw spectators into the TV all determines the fee given to clubs. TV rights are given to all the top flight premier league clubs, though the top teams are in higher demand. The next division down (the championship) only get a handful of televised matches and the one after that (league 1) are likely to get no allocations for market leaders sky sports. This means that the clubs at the top get richer and richer thanks TV rights and the clubs in the lower league feel minimal if non financial benefit. This aims to only further increase the gap in development of the contrasting clubs.
Other forms of media
Twitter - Many of the professional footballers and pundits now have their own twitter page which allows them to place their own statuses and communicate easily and quickly to all their fans. This knocks down the barriers between players and fans and creates a sense of greater intimacy.
Social networking sites - sites such as facebook allows fans of football to instantly spread and exchange their views on UK football which goes towards creating a public opinion and influences the opinion of others. After a high profile football game the average facebook news newsfeed is dominated with statuses giving their opinion and analysis upon football.
This sharing of opinion helps to further the knowledge people have of football in the UK.
Internet and apps - before the explosion of the internet you would have to check teletext or buy a newspaper to find out league tables and recent footballing news. Now fans have access to league tables, club info and in-depth player stats from around the world and get this information in a matter of seconds on demand with internet access.
Newspapers - the back pages of most newspapers within Britain is dominated with football news. A lot of people buy the newspaper, especially in the morning for their commute. This means that the newspaper is likely to be the form of media some people initially gain their information from. This then allows them to shape the way people interpret a certain event. The recent 2012 appointment of Roy Hodgson was met with headlines which mimicked the speech impediment he has in a manor which seemed to attempt to discredit him as they weren't fans of him getting the position ahead of other rival candidates.
The media within football have been attributed to creating an environment which is harmful to the performance of the England national team during tournaments as it easier and more lucrative to report and create negatives than it is positive news (bad news sells more than good news) therefore after nearly every tournament the British press have led a witch-hunt on an individual or two, pinning the blame of the whole tournaments failings (or what is perceived to be a failing) on what is generally a single mistake or bad moment from a player. This creates a toxic environment where the players are scared to play and make a mistake for fear of being portrayed as public enemy number one, therefore the media of newspaper can be seen to alter the psychology of the performers within the sport football, for better or for worse but arguably nearly always for the worse.
Local newspapers tend to prioritise reporting on matches involving teams with their region or even town. These semi pro and youth team matches virtually never get coverage from any of the other forms of media, so the local newspaper are important in allowing people to follow their local teams that would otherwise go unnoticed.
During tournaments based abroad these forms of media are the only way in which the vast majority of UK football fans can hear of their teams exploits.
Increased participation in sport vs. decreased participation as a consequence of the media's influence.
The vast coverage of the sport of football enforces at least some basic knowledge of its existence and what it is, within the UK, whether you like it or not. A sport such as Lacrosse for example is much less televised and receives little or no column space within common national newspapers.
It’s difficult to speculate as to whether I would have been so keen to participate within football myself had it not have been the first sport I was subjected to watching and surrounded by from a young age by TV and news. Therefore media can be seen as driving participation and awareness to sports.
The heavy media coverage of the sport allows fans to get involved, follow their team, watching every game, voice their opinions online and get blow by blow updates on squad and player information. This creates a sense of inclusion rather exclusion from the sport, which is more likely to welcome participation.
Alternatively, this has created a phenomenem of people who like watching and following a sport but show no desire for participation, they are gaining their fulfillment from merely watching alone. Its possible that in the absence of such coverage, they would seek to play it in order to get satisfy their interests.
The concern is that not only are participation levels potentially being lowered by this factor but also that we have created an era of couch potato sports fans, who need not even so much as walk to their local stadium to see the football, instead it can be accessed without even leaving the home.