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The EFL might just destroy it’s own product

Aston Villa and a number of other clubs are not happy with their league right now

Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

This current international break has proved anything but boring for Aston Villa fans. We’re currently awaiting a verdict on a few injuries ahead of the Second City Derby this weekend, which is something I guess. I said ‘anything but boring’ - not ‘positively wonderful’.

However, there’s also a lot of buzz in the news cycle about the latest EFL TV deal. We heard some rumblings earlier this month in regards to a ‘number of Championship clubs’ (probably Leeds and Aston Villa) and their happiness (or lack of it) in regards to the English Football League and their upcoming TV deal renewal.

Despite that initial rumoured opposition, the EFL actually went ahead and signed a deal with Sky TV this week to legitimise the concerns of a number of Football League clubs. The Guardian have reported that 19 Championship teams wanted to discuss the terms of any TV deal with the league before it went ahead. Clearly, this did not happen, as the EFL signed that new deal with Sky this past week.

The deal, worth £595 million according to the BBC, has now set a number of clubs off. Aston Villa, Leeds United, Derby County and 16 other teams look to be heading into what seems an ‘open rebellion’ against the EFL.

It seems that the gripe isn’t necessarily the ‘terms’ of the deal, but the fact that leading clubs weren’t consulted on the deal before it went ahead. Essentially, if these 19 clubs stay within the EFL structure, they have had a large portion of their financial future signed off by the league. TV money is a massive part of football - and we only need to look back on the collapse of the ITV/EFL deal to see how important these negotiations are to football clubs. Budgets are based on this - often solely - so for a club to have zero power in negotiating its main source of income.. Well - it’d worry any footballing CEO.

It’s worth noting that the EFL have had these issues before, a fairly long time ago. That led to the forming of the Premier League and the initial gamble by Sky to air a bunch of football games to ‘save’ their product. That clearly worked - and it might work again - especially so if 19 Championship clubs move away from the league.

Right now, it’s said that a fair few clubs in the EFL structure are ‘gravely concerned’ at the current situation. With 138 games a season hitting screens from next year, that means 138 games will be moved and jiggled around to suit Sky. Usually, this isn’t a problem, but Sky’s schedule can focus heavily on the upper-half of the table, and can focus heavily on certain teams. This includes Aston Villa. 138 games spread out shouldn’t be much of an issue - but when it’s weighted in the direction of clubs like Villa - then randomly sending Swansea to Hull a few days before Christmas - and then back to Villa, you can see why this situation is starting to piss off a few people. Either you’re the focus of the schedule, or the schedule will sprinkle you a difficulty now and then. A football club, and the fans of the club, rarely win.

That didn’t seem to matter when the EFL signed its latest deal. Now, the EFL is looking at losing its product, which as mentioned - has happened before. Will it relent in the face of pressure, or follow history and double down? Either way - it’s hard to imagine a future where the average football fan wins anything out of this power struggle.