Harty on . . . Sky TV and the lack of free-to-air sport

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A CURRENT popular radio advertisement informs consumers that new subscribers to the Sky platform not only get 12 months’ free broadband but also a 32-inch Samsung TV.

All very inviting but what about the million-or-so existing Sky customers, of which I number?

To be perfectly frank, it leaves me with the feeling of very much being taken for granted. I’ve subscribed to Sky TV since November, 1991, back in the days when more people saw Lord Lucan in the course of a month than watched the channel and when the Zenith Data Trophy was the only live football on the platform.

Clearly, in almost a quarter of a century, times have changed. Free-to-air sport is now approaching minimal levels, something which the late, great, local broadcaster Tony Millard told me would happen well over 20 years ago.

Quite simply, even in our armchairs, we have to pay to watch top-level sport. But with that comes the hard fact that, in that time, we’ve been turned from fans into customers.

I appreciate that they are running a business and increased income is the name of the game, but what happens when the product suffers?

Three weeks ago, with barely a whimper, Sky axed weekly boxing magazine show, Ringside, in an apparent cost-cutting exercise.

Regular readers will know that I love my boxing, so for me to lose one of the shows that I watched religiously every week, along with many others, as the viewing figures, even by Sky’s admission were healthy, was very disappointing.

To re-iterate, I appreciate it’s a business but how can they cut broadcasting output due to costs at the same time they are giving away free televisions?

And, is it a point of fact that with the loss of the Champions League coverage, are Sky actually now charging more money for less quality live football?

But we still pay, whether by the original tariff or the new special offer, because as Mr Millard rightly predicted, that’s what we have to do.

The cynics who said that sport, specifically football, but also other major sports, would eventually sell its soul to the devil, have almost been vindicated in their foresight.

The free TVs and the almost disrespect for existing customers is almost the tip of the iceberg, I think it’s far deeper than that.

At the highest level, it’s no longer the beautiful game, whether we like it or not.

That’s why, on the flip side, I see a real upturn for non-league football in the next few years as customers will want to become fans again.

n All credit to Worthing Borough Council for installing a new cricket net at Broadwater Green – an estimated £15,000 well spent on sports facilities.

However, could I point out to everyone, it is a CRICKET net, not a climbing frame or a football cage.

Use it for what it is there for, otherwise it won’t be long before the council have to pay another £15,000 to replace it.

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