The League of Ireland restarts tonight with the first four fixtures of the 2020 season kicking-off between 7.45pm and 8.00pm. Wolves and Leicester will battle it out for the Champions League places in the Premier League from 8.00pm also. This will be broadcast on BT Sports (a premium subscription channel in Ireland and the UK).
Competing against the Premier League, albeit a relatively rare event now given our February to October calendar, is often suggested as a reason why League of Ireland attendances may stagnate.
The argument goes that high-quality football on television changes the opportunity costs for fans. They could be disincentivised from supporting a local team when a high-quality substitute exists on TV.
I’ll leave the morals of what football supporters ought to do to the fans who penned and sing the lyrics to the chant that makes up this entry's title. The empirical question however - whether conflicting Premier League matches on TV impact League of Ireland attendance? - is something I can offer some insight on.
Research that Robbie Butler, Ewan Mullane and I are currently working on would suggest that there is no relationship between Premier League broadcasts and League of Ireland turnouts. Looking at attendance data from the 2018 and 2019 League of Ireland season, we find no statistical relationship between turnout and whether a match clashes with a Premier League broadcast (controlling for a range of other factors).
Although we don’t compete with Premier League broadcasts very often, the evidence suggests that when we do, this doesn’t statistically impact the turnout here. There is two ways of looking at this. First, you could say this is good news – Irish clubs don’t have to worry about competing with televised Premier League matches.
On the other hand, televised Premier League not acting as a substitute may point to the fact that fans do not see the two types of football as interchangeable. Maybe this is the worrying implication. At least if these Premier League broadcasts were taking fans away from the turnstiles, the league could behave strategically, altering scheduling or running promotions. I think the task of convincing consumers that both ‘products’ are substitutes is the challenging task. At present the quality differential between the Premier League and the League of Ireland means that this may not enter the consumers mind.