By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
5 January 2011
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? Find out what we’ve discovered so far (A-Z of nations, and listed by continent).
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.
Elsewhere in this series, find out how the League is viewed in:
KENYA and AZERBAIJAN and INDIA and SWEDEN and the CZECH REPUBLIC and SERBIA and AUSTRALIA and MONTENEGRO and ISRAEL and MALTA and the U.S.A and CANADA AND PAKISTAN and the UAE and MALAYSIA and NIGERIA.
Without further ado, here ‘s a view of what it’s like to watch the Premier League in . . . . .
Name: Paul Tancell.
Occupation: Marketing communications.
Game watched: Fulham 2 Arsenal 1 Date: Tuesday 3 January Time: 10am local time. (Delayed coverage).
Where: At home, Auckland, New Zealand.
Who else was watching: The cat appeared to be taking some limited interest but offered little in the way of conversation or opinion. With kick-off times for live games varying (depending on daylight savings) between 11.30pm for Saturday’s early kick off and 9am for midweek games, it’s not unusual to watch games at home at the end of a night or over breakfast.
TV Channel carrying the game: Sky Sports 1,2,3 & highlights channel.
Live coverage is substantial, with at least three live games on Sky Sports 2 on a Saturday night and two on Sunday. Additional to this, if there are no other live sport events taking place, more live games may be found on Sky Sports 1 when kick off times clash. This is often the case with midweek games as the early morning kick offs rarely clash with other events.
As well as the live coverage, virtually all other games are shown after the event with delayed coverage. On Sundays this often means back to back games from the early hours through to lunch time. Most games are also replayed at night at some stage during the week.
We have a one hour highlights package on a Monday evening and regular half hour slots on the highlights channel to cover live games shown earlier that week.
Who do you support and why? I’m a Manchester United fan. I was born in Manchester about half-way between Old Trafford and Main Roade and had a brother supporting United and a sister supporting City. When I was about five, Dad took me to United first then City the week after to see which I preferred. No contest after a Wednesday night cup tie at Old Trafford with a full house and a 5-1 win!
How much does it cost to watch Premier League games: As is standard for Sky packages worldwide, we’re forced to buy the entertainment package along with the Sports one. This sets me back around $110NZD a month (roughly £55 at the time of writing). The cost is justified (in my mind, if not my partner’s) by the fact that my only other option for watching would be to spend the late hours of Saturday and the early ones of Sunday in a city centre bar.
What’s the local tipple and how much does it cost: There are a few local brewers available, Macs brewery, Tui, Speights, Monteiths, all much of a muchness, and all extortionately priced. With kick-off times more often than not falling outside the opening hours of local pubs, trips to the city are usually required to watch games in a more natural habitat, where a pint, or more usually a ‘glass’ of beer will dent your wallet to the tune of 7-8NZD (£3.50 to £4).
What’s the popularity of the English Premier League in the country where you live: Football is viewed a minority sport by most Kiwis outside the major centres. With a large immigrant population however, it is still extremely well followed.
As far as TV coverage is concerned, if you want to watch Football, the English Premier League is just about your only choice. There’s La Liga, the Champions League and Europa League on ESPN, but nothing that compares to the amount of English coverage. In recent years we have lost Serie A and our international round-up show and while this stunts the growth of football in New Zealand, it does however mean that those interested in football consume almost their entire fill of the game via the English Premier League.
Away from the TV, there are a number of supporters associations representing Premier League clubs and despite the ridiculous cost ($150NZD), a large number of replica shirts can be seen around town. As you would expect, Manchester United and Liverpool seem to have the largest representation, though a wide range can be seen, especially across the first generation immigrants who grew up with a local side. Amongst the younger fans an increasing number of Chelsea and Manchester City shirts to appear to be popping up.
Any other observations: New Zealand is a rarity in the English speaking world; in fact it’s a rarity in the human populated world, where football is still widely regarded as minority sport.
The country has a vast history dating back centuries to its original colonization by tribes from the pacific islands, but in its modern incarnation as a member of the British Commonwealth it is a relatively young nation. Modern sports arrived here along with the British settlers and there are records of teams almost as old as the country itself. However, by the time mass population and industrialization arrived and opened the door to wide spread participation in sport, football had already taken steps towards professionalism in England and Scotland. This led the immigrant population, keen to participate in the games of the empire and to have the ability to compete against their home land, to take up the amateur games of rugby and cricket in much larger numbers.
The highly successful ‘All backs’(*) tour to England in 1905, cemented the status of rugby as the national sport and it has remained unchallenged since. The physical make-up of the country’s Maori and Pacific Island community also lends itself particularly well to Rugby Union and Rugby League making these games even more dominant in those areas of society.
Football has had its moments, namely the 1982 and 2010 World Cups, where the country has shown more than a fleeting interest in the game, but with such a small population (four million, one million of which live in Auckland) the country struggles to support its one professional club -Wellington Phoenix of the A-League – never mind a professional league of its own. There are signs however that the tide may just be beginning to change.
Video: NZ getting thumped 4-0 in 1982 by Brazil. Article continues below.
Despite this uphill struggle against the popularity of rugby, football is more widely played at youth level than its egg-shaped cousin. Offering as it does, an opportunity for children of all shapes and sizes to participate and excel, while calming the nerves of concerned mothers eager not to see their nearest and dearest at the bottom of a ruck. At social level too, football remains the country’s most regularly participated sport, although not necessarily given the amount of access to council playing fields this fact deserves.
In addition to this, the ever expanding immigrant communities are creating a market for the game like never before. Evident in the TV coverage, but noticeable too in other media, New Zealand is starting to digest football and in particular English football. While many may not have a team, or regularly follow the game, most are aware of the main protagonists, the major narratives and the relevance of key games.
It may not sound like much, but in the scheme of things this is a major step forward for New Zealand football. Players like Ryan Nelson and Chris Wood have started to pave the way for a new generation of Kiwis who, through their parents, peers or popular culture, are taking to the game and sticking with it.
With Australia’s defection from Oceania to the Asian confederation, New Zealand has been presented with an opportunity to follow up the success of 2010 with future World Cup appearances which can only serve to further establish the beautiful game in one of its most distant outposts.
* The team were described to have played like they were all backs, in reporting this back to the New Zealand press this was misreported as ‘all blacks’ – a nickname that has stuck ever since.
This feature will be updated on a regular basis. 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 (although if we’ve not had one from your country it’s almost certain we will) and we’ll be appealing via Twitter from time to time for viewers from specific nations.