This week’s Monday Night Football game was hyped up as one of the matches of the season so far. In the eighth rounds of games, the Premier League table is beginning to take a bit of shape and victory for Liverpool would have put them level on points with early pacesetters Manchester City.
For Manchester United, things haven’t been going great, but had they beaten their arch-rivals at Anfield, they would be among the top teams in the standings.
Yet, the game failed to live up to its billing, with ‘Red Monday’ ending in a damp squib of a game that seemed destined for nil-all from an early point. Despite having 65% of possession, Liverpool only managed three shots on target in the 90 minutes. United’s best chance probably didn’t even register as an attempt on goal as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header shot across the six-yard box.
While those attending ‘Red Monday’ were said to have the hottest ticket in town, there were people who were at the Red Wedding who suffered less.
With viewing figures for Premier League games dropping there are a number of theories as to why this is the case.
Ken Early wrote a superb piece in The Irish Times on Monday discussing how you can watch little of the action, but miss nothing because of social media.
However, the question that also has to be asked is, are people tuning off because the quality is so poor?
If you tuned into Sky’s coverage at 7pm last night and kept watching until the broadcast ended, you would have spent your entire evening watching the television while not being entertained.
The day before, ‘Super Sunday’ saw the clashes of Middlesbrough vs Watford and Southampton vs Burnley. These were not particularly attractive fixtures for viewers and bring another possible reason for the drop in people watching: that there are a lot of terrible teams in the league.
Part of the extremely lucrative TV deal means that every team must be shown live a certain amount of times (this gets relaxed late in the season when games with title/relegation implications are given priority).
This means the likes of Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and West Brom have their games shown – even when they are not playing any of the league’s bigger names.
There are also so many games being shown that it is impossible to have a classic every time. You can watch a live game on Saturday lunchtime, a 3pm kick-off, the evening game on BT, a double-header on Sunday and MNF. That’s six of the ten games on any given weekend.
One of the points Ken Early made was that you have all the highlights at the touch of a button on your smart phone. Why sit through nine hours of football every weekend when you can stay away and get all the highlights in nine minutes?
Monday night’s game certainly didn’t inspire anyone to put their phones down and pay attention.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena