SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
27 September 2011 [and updated 17 October]
England’s Premier League is, by far, the nation’s most successful sporting export, watched live each week in more than 200 countries, and earning from foreign TV rights alone £1.437bn for the current three-year overseas deals (or £479m a year) as reported by sportingintelligence last year here and here.
But who exactly watches? And where? At home? In pubs or bars?
What channels carry the games? How much does it cost to subscribe? Why do foreign fans tune in?
Is is just popular in a few key markets, or can you really find PL fanatics in Tonga and Papua New Guinea and Gambia and Peru and all points in between?
Over the coming months, we aim to find out, inviting PL viewers from around world (from as many of the 200+ different countries as possible), to share details of a single game watched.
KENYA, AZERBAIJAN, INDIA AND SWEDEN are all in this piece. Scroll down to find.
Without further ado, what’s it like to watch the Premier League in . . . . .
Name: Richard Wanjohi.
Game watched: Spurs 2 Arsenal 1. Date: Sunday 2 October 2011. Time: 6pm local time. (4pm UK).
Where: At a friend’s flat, not far from my own, in Nairobi.
Who else was watching: My friend and his wife, all of us Kenyan. Both my friend and I have been long-suffering couch fans of Arsenal and it has been a tough start to the season so far. I began supporting Arsenal when Thierry Henry joined.
TV Channel carrying the game: SuperSport – Africa’s premier sports channel carried on DSTv – owned by MultiChoice, based in South Africa. There is an array of choice on the various channels on DSTv, from SuperSport 1 or SS1 to SuperSport 9 (SS9) as well as SuperSport Blitz and lately SuperSport HD (1, 2 and 3).
EPL matches are shown live on SS3 and SuperSport HD3 with regular updates on SuperSport Blitz. There is also a local channel that has started screening single matches from the EPL on Saturday evenings, starting 1700hrs local time (two hours ahead of England).
I also check for comments and fan updates on Twitter and Facebook as fans take jabs at each other’s favoured team(s). @InfoStradaLive and @guardian_sport are my favoured handles for the updates and interesting insights into the games.
How much does it cost: DSTv Premium, which has about 98 channels, is approximately US$80 a month (£51) while DSTv Compact is at US$30 (£19), but with far fewer channels, especially premier sports channels. The more affluent middle class can afford this at home while public venues are more often subscribers.
What’s the local tipple and how much does it cost: The favoured drink is a cold Tusker beer (for those who partake of alcohol, I don’t) which retails at a recommended retail price of 100 Kenyan Shillings (approximately US$1, or 63p) for 300ml. I usually opt for a non-alcoholic malt-based drink, Alvaro, which is at KSh.60-75 (60-75 cents, or 38-48p) depending on your retail purchase point. Alternatively most people opt for a soda which will retail at around the same price as the malt-based drink.
What’s the popularity of the English Premier League in the country where you live: The English Premier League (EPL) is essentially the number 1 European league watched by most football-loving audiences in the country. Two factors coming into play – the colonial heritage from the British, and also the timing of most games which sees them at early afternoon or evening when most people are busy socialising.
I’d estimate that 90 per cent of football lovers have a team or two they favour in the EPL, and the rest have teams in other European leagues.
Most social venues – by which I mean pubs, eateries and community centres – have subscribed to DSTv to lure more business to them. Big games are marketed as ‘must-watch’ occasions and the previews start a day or two before the actual play e.g. the recent north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.
Arsenal are often quoted as having the most followers in Kenya even with their relatively dismal performances in the last couple of years, with Manchester United and Chelsea battling for second and third most favoured. Talent clinics by some English teams, including Manchester United via their partnership with Airtel have seen them become a favourite among many youngsters who hope to one day play in the English game.
Any other observations: A major concern is the poor state of the local game, which has seen fans migrating from the stadia, away from local games to local social gathering spots where they watch foreign leagues on TV instead. Over 10 years, the Kenyan Premier League has been poorly managed and our local teams are losing their fans to foreign leagues.
But this is changing with some investment from SuperSport in the local league, and screening of the same on their premier channels. Fans have suddenly realised the potential the local game can have and are slowly streaming back to the stadia.
Liberalisation of airwaves saw the entry of pay-TV about 15 years ago and this contributed to the variety seen on screens locally. As is usually the case, the uptake has been steady over the years and the expanding middle class makes for a worthy target audience.
The move of McDonald Mariga to Inter Milan (under Jose Mourinho) showed many young footballers of the potential of the game and how much hard work is rewarded and this has spurred much interest both from fans and corporate organisations who have seen it wise to invest in the local game.
There is much promise developing in the local league, which hopes to become a favoured ground for scouts from major leagues in Europe and Americas.
Mariga’s brother Victor Mugabe Wanyama moved to Celtic in Scotland for the 2011-12 season. Is there hope for more Kenyan players playing in the English or other European leagues? Kenyans can’t wait!
Name: Sean W.
Occupation: Diplomat (views my own).
Game watched: Spurs 2 Arsenal 1. Date: Sunday 2 October 2011. Time: 8pm local time. (4pm UK).
Where: In my apartment in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Who else was watching: Just me and my not-so-long suffering wife (we married in August). She’s British like me, but, being Welsh, is more of a rugby fan. Especially at the moment.
There is a large expat community here in Baku so many expat pubs and bars show the football and a few of the venues frequented mainly by locals also show the beautiful game. A personal favourite is Tortuga, a pirate-themed pub in the centre of town (better than it sounds). The English Premier League (alongside the Champions League) seems to be the most popular, despite the heavy presence of Scots in town. The Scottish games do, of course, get shown too.
TV channel carrying the game: Abu Dhabi Sports. This is technically a U.A.E satellite package but, for some reason, is available here. Incredibly, ridiculously, and frustratingly (considering my eventual return to Blighty) the quality of the package is far better than anything available in the UK.
Every single Premier League game, including the 3PM kick-offs, is shown live and in high definition (with repeats throughout the week), with full English commentary and punditry from well-known names such as Andy Townsend and Alan Curbishley (a personal hero, as a Charlton Athletic fan).
I’m also heavily reliant on Twitter to keep me updated with scores throughout the rest of the English league. @CAFCofficial is my saviour as it provides a running commentary of key events throughout the Addicks’ games from starting line-ups to after match interviews. It means I can follow Charlton and watch live Premier League at the same time. Boom.
How much does it cost: I paid for the full year in one go at 200 Azeri New Manats, which is about £160. That equals about £13.30 per month. Cheap.
What’s the local tipple and how much does it cost: Azerbaijan is in the Former Soviet Union so vodka is prevalent, but this is more enjoyed by the older generation and doesn’t really accompany football. The local beer is called Xirdalan (pronounced Hirdalan, sort of) and is surprisingly drinkable. Also available are Efes (due to the heavy Turkish influence) and the usual range of European beers. The price of a pint is between 4 and 7 Azeri Manats (or £3-£6).
What’s the popularity of the English Premier League in the country where you live: It’s probably the most popular league, though the Spanish La Liga (particularly Barcelona) is also well watched. You don’t see too many locals wearing replica shirts but, if you do, they’re probably Man Utd or Barcelona, with the odd Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal shirt too. You also see a fair amount of England shirts on the locals, which is odd given our poor recent record and generally unappealing players.
Any other observations: Azerbaijan is investing an increasing amount of resource into football out here and England is well associated with it.
Ex-Arsenal and England legend Tony Adams is in Azerbaijan managing Qabala FC, a club located around 200km outside of the capital, Baku. When he took over the club they were a top half team and, I understand, he aims to take them to the top of the league with ambitions towards Champions League qualification beyond that. Good luck.
Azerbaijan’s biggest footballing export is someone very close to the heart of any true England fan. In fact, he’s such a local hero that the national stadium in Baku is named after him. That man is Tofik Bakhramov, the linesman who played a key role in awarding England’s controversial third goal, with the score level at 2-2, in their 1966 World Cup final victory over Germany.
Outside the stadium is a large statue of Mr Bakhramov proudly standing tall, his arm thrust out before him with flag in hand to signal to his referee “goal”. Rumours suggest the Queen awarded him a Golden Whistle some years later for services to sport. I love rumours.
It was at this stadium in October last year that I witnessed Azerbaijan pull off an incredible 1-0 victory over their close friends (and thus footballing rivals) Turkey in a Euro 2012 qualifier.
As the game neared its end I noticed a colourful, exotic-looking bird circling in the sky above the open air stands of the stadium. Turning to my companion I asked “Is that a parrot circling overhead?”, which would have been a strange sight here in the Former Soviet Union, close to the border with Iran.
Slowly the bird circled down towards us and emerged through the smoke emitting from flares set off by the crowd. Not a parrot after all, just a dove which had been spray-painted green, red and blue; the colours of the Azerbaijan flag …
Name: Rajeesh Nair.
Occupation: Software engineer for a multinational company.
Game watched: Man Utd 2 Norwich 0. Date: 1 October 2011. Time: 7.30pm local time. (3pm UK).
Who else was watching: A few friends who also have an interest in football.
TV channel carrying the game: ESPN Star Sports.
How much does it cost: I don’t pay for it because it’s provided where I live. But a subscription cost for an ordinary domestic subscriber would be 400 rupees per month (about £5.20 / $8) for a bundle of channels that includes ESPN Star Sports.
What’s the local tipple and how much does it cost: The local beer that we usually drink is Kingfisher Blue (it’s awesome) and it costs us around 150 rupees (£1.95 / $3) for a bottle.
What’s the popularity of the English Premier League in your country: I have to say that the popularity of the EPL has surely increased a lot after Venkys became the owners of Blackburn Rovers last year. That got a lot of attention here. And think it will be a great hit in India if we guys here could see some EPL teams coming to India and playing at least a friendly match here. We watch games on TV but we want to see teams live in front of us, even if it’s only a friendly. I’m actually a Chelsea fan and have followed them for several years. But we – people who follow the EPL – all excited about Blackburn Rovers coming to India this week and these kind of promotional matches will help to make EPL a bigger hit in India in my view.
Any other observations: As I’ve said, I am big fan of Chelsea and you perhaps wouldn’t believe me but it’s true that we have intense rivalries over here based on supporting different teams. Certainly defeat by one team to another supported by a colleague can start a row! Among the people I know, I’d say the main teams which are been followed here in India now are Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs … and of course Blackburn Rovers since last year.
Name: Lindy Lindh.
Occupation: freelance in advertising.
Game watched: Man Utd 3 Chelsea 1. Date: 18 September 2011. Time: 5pm local. (4pm UK).
Where: At home in Kalmar.
Who else was watching: Sadly alone.
TV Channel carrying the game: Viasat Fotboll.
How much does it cost: 200 Swedish Krona a month (approx £19), another 70 SEK (£7) for the HD-version, which is not available until next month here.
What’s the local tipple and how much does it cost: I would be drinking lager [if in a bar], which is about £5-£6 a pint here, depending on brand. I prefer Czech lager.
What’s the popularity of the English Premier League in your country: It’s the premier choice in football here. Has been and will be. The teams in falling popularity order are: Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham (especially strong among sports journalists…!?), Man City. And Leeds have a fairly strong following still among people of my age. My favourite team is not hard to guess as I have run Chelsea’s Swedish fan club, CSFC, since 1970. This was the official supporter club from 1970 to mid 80s when Bates took control of the supporter clubs and we did not want to be run by him, so unofficial since.
Any other observations: The Premier League is incredibly strong here, anyone that likes football has a favourite team in England. Spanish and Italian football comes next, partly because the Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For the past 7-8 years, virtually all games with the top clubs, the red clubs, are broadcast here.
Since ’67 I think we’ve had one [English] game a week which is the basis for the extremely strong position here, as well as in the other Scandinavian countries. Now there are many more thanks to the TV schedules with split rounds. Chelsea along with Man Utd was the most popular club in the early 70s I believe.
Liverpool is the strongest today, very much due to the 80s team and Glenn Hysén playing for them. Man Utd are probably getting very close again though. City is of course the coming club as success is a major factor in attracting new fans, here and everywhere.
Arsenal owes a lot of its popularity here to Fredrik Ljungberg. Chelsea have never had a Swedish player and I think are the only top club without one, though today they have two Swedish kids yet to appear in the first team. We had a 4th string goalkeeper when Cech was injured, but he never played and was back-up to the back-up so it does not count). United had a couple – Blomqvist and Henrik Larsson. Having a local player also does wonders for popularity.
This feature will be updated on a regular basis, with a new country being added at the top. Sportingintelligence invites readers who watch the Premier League overseas to send your own experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org, answering the questions posed above, and including a JPEG of yourself. We cannot guarantee to use all submissions and we’ll be appealing via Twitter from time to time for viewers from specific nations.