What’s “gimmicky” about television access to Premier League locker rooms?
Dressing room access for sports television broadcasters in the United States is so common it’s an afterthought.
But in the Premier League, such access has never been allowed and, according to Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, it is “highly unlikely” that it ever will be.
When asked if locker room access for television cameras would ever be granted, Scudamore said: “It’s highly unlikely. We’ve had a media access working group working on this topic for the last 18 months.
“I think there should be better access for media for managers and players and I think it’s one of the regrets that we can’t provide more access. But the slightly gimmicky idea of locker-room access – I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good idea.”
In a world where broadcasters pay hundreds of millions of dollars - and in the case of United Kingdom broadcaster BT Sport, over $1.1 billion - for the rights to televise live matches, the concept of insider access isn’t “gimmicky” at all. It’s about getting maximum value for your money and providing audiences, who pay good money to see the matches, with the best viewing experience possible.
The fact that most clubs are in favor of opening their doors renders Scudamore’s comments even more prehistoric. BT’s executive producer, Grant Best, explained: “There are a number of areas where we’re talking to clubs to try to get access. We are inquiring [about dressing rooms]. We need their help. They’re all being really open right now.”
Scudamore addressed the point that dressing room access in the US is common: “I understand but I actually do understand that there’s a mystique that goes on behind the dressing-room door and that maybe ought to just stay between the manager and the players, is my view.
“It’s almost the last bastion of secrecy in football. I just think there is something about the dressing room that is sacrosanct because that is where the manager goes and does his work with his players. There must be things that go on in there that are between them.”
Such comments misconstrue the concept of dressing room access. Broadcasters all not calling for 24 hour Big Brother cameras and audio throughout the dressing room. But video of a pre-match psych speech or post-match manager talk would add substantial intrigue to the league’s coverage.
Perhaps even more interesting is Scudamore’s take on American owners of Premier League clubs and how he believes they are not interested in pushing for such access:
“I think most of the American owners are buying into the Premier League because they like the Premier League for what it is. I don’t hear any American owner that says, we should wholesale take what the US does and bring it into English football. The opposite – they’re saying, isn’t it fantastic, English football, global interest – they’re buying into it for the things that we’ve got that they haven’t.”
The idea that shrewd businessmen like Ellis Short (Sunderland), Randy Lerner (Aston Villa), Stan Kroenke (Arsenal), John Henry (Liverpool), Malcolm Glazer (Manchester United) and Shahid Khan (Fulham) aren’t interested in maximizing their club’s exposure - both stateside and on a global scale - is simply preposterous.
But fear not, baby steps have been taken.
This year Premier League clubs have agreed to operate “mixed zones” for rights-holding broadcasters after each match and to make at least one player available for two hours every week.