EFL clubs get £42m revenue boost from iFollow

Craig Hanson 2 weeks ago
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Clubs lower down the football pyramid get welcome £42m windfall from streaming service

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a destructive impact on many facets of life over the past two years and football has been no exception. After Project Restart enabled the 2019/20 campaign to come to a close last year, it became clear that fans would not be attending live football matches for some time. That trend continued throughout most of the 2020/21 campaign until the final two gameweeks saw a smattering of supporters allowed back through the gates. This time has been devastating for fans but also for the finances of the teams they love, with the loss of revenue seriously impacting many of the 72 clubs in the Sky Bet EFL structure.

With fans no longer able to attend games, the EFL managed to agree a deal with broadcaster Sky Sports to allow existing season ticket holders access to free live streams via a new platform called iFollow. Non-season ticket holders could also purchase passes to watch the games on their clubs' websites using the same service. Games shown on live TV by Sky Sports were off limits to those fans but the vast majority of their games could be streamed for a one-off fee. Despite its foibles, the system has worked well and has given many supporters in this country and overseas the chance to follow their teams and show support monetarily in this time of need.

Check out this article all about how streaming via iFollow works and the pros and cons of the service.

Fans from 175 countries watched their favourite Football League teams on iFollow

During the 2020/21 EFL campaign, more than 360,000 supporters from 175 different countries watched the 72 clubs in the league pyramid via iFollow. Over 160,000 of those were season ticket holders. The remaining non-season ticket holders used passes to live stream the matches. The streaming service was used across a range of devices. In total, 600 million minutes of action were streamed on desktop and 205 million minutes on mobile and tablet, which gives an interesting insight into the viewing habits of the modern football fan. 1,659 games in total were streamed live during the season, or 805 million minutes of football.

Norwich City were the most streamed club from the Championship. Ipswich Town led the race in League One, and Bolton Wanderers attracted the most viewership in League Two, closely followed by Bradford City. The most viewed game of all was Norwich's 3-0 victory against Luton on March 6.

£42m a welcome boost but does it fix the deeper problems amid Premier League deal with Sky Sports, BT Sport & Amazon?

All of these viewing minutes mean clubs get £42m of revenue from the EFL. While this revenue will help to support clubs in need lower down the football pyramid, doubt remains over whether it will simply paper over the cracks of a crumbling system or make a real, tangible difference? Last month the Premier League gained government approval to renew its existing TV rights deal with broadcasters Sky Sports, BT Sport and others - read more about that here - and contained within the deal was a pledge to distribute £100m across the rest of the football pyramid in things like women's football, grassroots football and the EFL. In a statement put out by the EFL shortly after, the league welcomed the funding but also warned of the growing chasm between the haves and the have-nots in the English game.

It said: "It is important to acknowledge that the current media rights deal will preserve the status quo of an unbalanced, unsustainable, and unfair financial distribution model across English football which continues to cause serious -- issues throughout the football pyramid, while continuing to distort competition between clubs and threaten the long-term viability of EFL competitions and clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two."

Not only is the EFL concerned about this inequity and the eroding of competition this causes, but also the unsustainable lengths clubs will then go to in order to compete.

The EFL went on to say in its statement: "Championship clubs in particular face impossible economic pressures, seeking to gain promotion to the Premier League, which has in turn led to untenable -- speculation and irrational behaviour. With combined losses of £600m over the last two years, it remains in a perilous -- state"

It is clear that the revenue from the TV rights deal and this iFollow money will be valuable to EFL clubs in desperate need of a cash injection but many argue that more needs to be done to redress the balance in English football with clubs becoming more and more reckless in their pursuit of promotion. The only way to achieve some semblance of monetary stability seems to be reaching the Premier League and clubs are all too willing to put everything on red in order to get there.

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