French football is taking a leaf out of Spain’s book and competing with the Premier League

Today, the French professional football league, the LFP, set out its strategy for expanding its brand and competing with its rivals around the world.

Across Europe, football leagues are progressing and adding new initiatives. Everything from fan engagement and club content to live streaming on social media is on the agenda. But, of course, football fans around the world can’t watch everything. They have to prioritise – the key is to get them to prioritise your league over the others.

That’s why most football clubs now are trying to get ahead of the game by making their presence known throughout the world. It’s more than just being successful in your home country, you also have to be prepared to sell your club in foreign lands. The same is true for football leagues.

And that might just be why the LFP has suggesting moving the biggest French Ligue 1 games from Saturday and Sunday evenings to Sunday afternoons instead, in the second of its five pillars in the tweet below.

They’re not the first to think of moving their biggest games in order to grab the world’s undivided attention. Last December, the Spanish football league decided to schedule one of the biggest fixtures in their calendar – El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou – at 4.15pm on a Saturday afternoon. There are plenty of reasons to schedule a game at a certain time, but perhaps the cynical reasons come to the fore when you see a decision like that: not only is 4pm (CET) on a Saturday a good time for Spanish viewers, but it also makes sure that the game isn’t at a prohibitively late hour in China and the US, for a global audience.

To add to the cynicism, perhaps it also had to do with the Premier League’s scheduling, too. Under British law, no football is to be shown on TV between 2.45-5.15pm (British time) in an effort to get football fans to watch their local teams in person in stadiums, rather than watching Premier League clubs on TV.

But that forces the Premier League – the league with the biggest global reach and audience – to schedule its biggest games of the weekend at other times, so they can be shown on TV in the UK. This gave Spain the chance to make sure that El Clasico wasn’t competing with any Premier League games of note. Indeed, Stoke v Burnley and West Brom v Watford were two of the English games on at the same time.

Live-streaming will only become more and more important for rightsholders like the LFP and the Premier League, and in a world where that change is taking place, it makes sense to remember that the audience is a global one and not just a local one. The idea that fans will make an ‘appointment to view’ sport is still very much alive, but when the audience is all in different time zones, that makes it harder, and may even give rise to a conflict somewhere along the line: is it more important, for example, that the league to makes sure a Chinese audience sees the game at a convenient time, or an American one, or a European one?

There is also a financial aspect to it, too. No sport, league or team exists in a vacuum. There are competitors out there, and fans all over the world want to see the game.

Some leagues are getting left behind, as is evidenced by the French league’s suggestion of moving games to times that are more suitable to a global audience, but it’s also a worry for the Premier League going forward, too. Their position is right at the top of the food chain, and yet others are taking a more proactive approach in the changing digital landscape: others are live-streaming their games and don’t seem to be afraid of moving massive fixtures in order to get what they want.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 195 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and a regular contributor to Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan91

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