It is a well known that fact that Britain loves football. The Premier League has the highest aggregate attendance of any league in Europe. The Championship, our second division, has the 3rd highest aggregate attendance on the continent, higher than La Liga in Spain and Serie A in Italy. And if that wasn’t enough League One, our third division, is 9th highest in Europe, beating the likes of Portugal’s Primeria Liga, Russia’s Football Championship and Scotland’s Premier League.
So when news broke this weekend that the EFL has decided to move the Football League highlights show to Freeview channel Quest, the channel most famous for re-runs of Wheeler Dealers and How It’s Made, it was a move that left me shocked and disgusted in equal measure.
In it’s current format on Channel 5 on a Saturday we get a highlight show for the Championship which clocks in at 1 hour from 21:00 until 22:00, then all of the highlights from Leagues One and Two are crammed into the Goal Rush programme which runs for half an hour from 22:00 to 22:30. That half hour run time works out nicely to squeeze it in before Match of the Day starts on BBC One so as not to compete with the football highlight juggernaut, but there is no way you can give the 2 leagues and their 48 teams a sufficient amount of coverage in such a short space of time.
The viewing figures reflect the frustration of the fans, with the ratings coming in at around 500,000 viewers per week. That’s not to say the fans don’t care though – when the BBC had the rights to the highlights between 2009 and 2015 they ran their show straight after Match of The Day and regularly had over 1,000,000 viewers. They also ran weekly regional show Late Kick Off which gave the lower league teams the extra coverage they deserve.
Apparently the BBC were interested in bringing the Football League back, however the EFL went with the greedy option and took the higher offer from Quest. I can’t tell you what channel Quest is on any of their broadcasting platforms without looking it up, and as Channel 5 was considered a step down from the BBC the move to Quest could be seen as a cataclysmic freefall.
After the destruction of the Football League Trophy this is nothing short of another slap in the face to the fans of any Football League club from the greedy, narcisistic EFL.