Last night, Darren Ambrose apparently scored a screamer for Crystal Palace in their win over Manchester United in the Carling Cup.
I say apparently as I only saw that on twitter, so I went hunting this morning to see it myself.
I was on the Guardian’s youtube roundup, and saw that several uploads of the goal had been pulled due to a copyright claim by the Football League.
Fair enough, you might think; they don’t want people going to Youtube and giving Google content they’ve not paid for when you’d want those eyeballs on the licensed platform.
But there doesn’t seem to be a licensed platform, certainly that I can easily see. The goals aren’t on the Football League website, nor either of their broadcasters, Sky and the BBC. Maybe they’ll be up there later. Maybe.
But a media policy which means that you hunt down places to stop fans from being able to like your product seems to be the same mistake the record companies made, and we know where that turned out.
Football – like many sports rights holders – is concerned about piracy and streaming, just as those record companies were concerned about downloading music. But as iTunes proved, there were lots of people prepared to pay for music once the industry started to give it to them the way the consumer wanted, not the way the economics of the industry dictated.
Football’s issue here is that its economics are utterly entangled with the economics of a broadcast medium under severe challenge. When the broadcasters suffer from established player dilemma, that makes your sport suffer from it too.
Until the game can start giving people what they want, people will start to fashion it themselves. The internet need not be a watershed for sports rights holders, but it is a death knell for push-based models of content delivery.
Whether the move away to something better is painless or not depends on how much rights holders want to engage with their fans versus how much they want their fans to conform to what makes life easier for the sport.
There’s plenty of clubs who want the former, but given the institutional inertia in sport and their yoking to push-broadcasters, an awfully large number of the latter.