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Gillingham managing director Joe Comper on the new five-year deal between Sky Sports and the EFL which sees over 1,000 matches broadcast live each season

Gillingham expect to be better off financially under the new Sky Sports TV deal but supporters should be prepared for changes from next season.

The 2024/25 season kicks off with all opening day fixtures broadcast live on Sky Sports - the first of at least 20 live matches that the Gills will be involved in.

Gillingham's managing director Joe Comper admits the jury’s out when it comes to fan experience of the new TV deal with Sky Sports
Gillingham's managing director Joe Comper admits the jury’s out when it comes to fan experience of the new TV deal with Sky Sports

All clubs in League 1 and 2 are guaranteed the 20 live games but with UEFA’s ‘Article 48’ still in place - blocking matches being shown live on Saturdays between 2.45pm and 5.15pm - it means lower-league fans will have to start getting used to some more unusual kick-off times.

Sky Sports’ new broadcast deal with the EFL replaces iFollow and club streaming services, where clubs have previously been able to charge fans £10 to watch a game live, usually for midweek matches and during international weekends.

Financially, the Gills stand to pocket £300,000 a season under the new deal but the club’s managing director Joe Comper admits fans might have to accept some changes.

“Positives first, it means more money for the club,” said the Gills MD.

“There’s more money going into the EFL which means more money coming our way as part of the distribution and that’s a good thing. £300k is huge money for us.

“What does it mean for the fans? On the positive, it means they get more live action and more eyes on this football club, which is brilliant.

“Will it mean some change of times for kicks-offs? Yes, it will and I know that is annoying. There is something beautiful about the lower leagues that you still turn up at 3pm on a Saturday.

“We will see how it goes, but personally I quite like a Friday night game every now and again. Sometimes people like to come on a Friday night under the lights and as long as that doesn’t happen too often, great and as long as we don’t get too many Sundays at midday, we all love our roast!

“The jury is out for me, in terms of how positive or negative the impact will be for the supporters, so we will see, but from a financial point of view it is great.”

Attendances at Priestfield have been up since the Galinsons took charge. The average crowd this season has been just under 6,500 - up almost 1,000 from the previous year.

The club will be hoping more live games don’t have too much impact on those attending as that would soon start to eat into the £300k.

Mr Comper said: “I am a massive believer that football isn’t a TV show, it’s a cliche but it’s true, it resonates, we all got into the game by going and watching it.

“It is very difficult getting into a game by watching it on the tele and I hope it doesn’t become too much like that.”

The EFL have said that: “As Article 48 has been protected, we do not believe that attendances will be significantly impacted by more match action being made available.

“Nothing beats the live matchday experience and we are confident that fans that can and are able to attend a match will continue to do so in the large numbers that we continue to see through the turnstiles.

“We have protected 832 key Saturday 3pm matches and introduced extended notice periods for fans, balanced club selections and five weekend matches at Saturday 12.30.

“We believe the balance we have struck grows media income but not at the expense of attendance income.”

Gillingham will have at least 20 live games broadcast next season as part of the new five-year deal Picture: Andy Jones FM4951919
Gillingham will have at least 20 live games broadcast next season as part of the new five-year deal Picture: Andy Jones FM4951919

The new five-year agreement with broadcaster Sky Sports - approved unanimously by EFL clubs - is a record domestic rights deal worth £935m over that period. It starts next season which will kick off on the weekend of August 10-11. The EFL say it’s a 60% increase financially for clubs on the current rights value.

The last set of accounts published by the Gills (for season 2021/22) declared their TV and radio revenue as £119,040.

Domestic streaming will be through existing Sky Sports channels and the new dedicated channel, Sky Sports+. For non-Sky Sports subscribers, viewers can access their club’s live games by purchasing a NOW Sports Day or Monthly membership, which can be activated instantly.

From August, NOW Sports will include every live Sky Sports+ stream and on-demand catch-up content. Customers with a full Sky Sports subscription have been told they won't pay extra to access Sky Sports+.

Five matches across League 1 and 2 will be broadcast live each weekend. Live matches will also be broadcast in midweek, along with the Saturday and Sunday lunchtime slots at 12.30pm, Friday nights and additional picks on a Thursday and a Monday evening.

Gillingham’s games that have already been designated for live coverage are their opening and final day (May 3, 2025) fixture, midweek games (six will be scheduled when the fixtures are released), four bank holiday matches (including Easter, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) and fixtures played during international breaks (there are four of these in the season).

International breaks are on September 2-10, October 7-15, November 11-19 and March 17-25.

Additionally, all play-off matches, Carabao Cup games and Bristol Street Motors Trophy (EFL Trophy) matches will be broadcast live. The Trophy will begin with three group games, as has been the norm in recent seasons.

That’s already a total of 20 games minimum for the Gills but success next season - as is the aim - will no doubt mean more interest in streaming the club’s matches live.

The EFL have stated that the new deal includes an agreement that there is a more equal spread of club picks.

At least 16 of the minimum 20 matches broadcast live will not be moved and an extended period of notice will be in place from next season for those games that are.

Gillingham fans could be facing 12.30pm weekend kick offs next season Picture: @Julian_KPI
Gillingham fans could be facing 12.30pm weekend kick offs next season Picture: @Julian_KPI

Fixture release date is on Wednesday, June 26 (9am) and the new agreement says that “within seven days of the 2024/25 fixture release selections will be made in respect of all matches to be played before the end of September.

“Before the start of the season, selections shall be made in respect of all matches scheduled to be played prior to the end of the third round of the FA Cup (January 2024).

“By November 1, selections shall be made in respect of all matches to be played between the end of the third round proper of the FA Cup and the first weekend of March.

“Selections for matches scheduled after the first weekend in March will be made on a four-week rolling basis starting from February 1 (e.g. a selection for the first weekend in April will be selected in the first weekend in March).”

In total, there will be 248 League 2 matches available to watch live next season - 1,059 across the whole of the EFL. The majority will be broadcast on Sky Sports + which will have the capability to show up to 100 live events via concurrent streams.

The EFL’s production partner IMG will increase the number of camera setups used for streaming, up from one to two in League 2.

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “This increased investment and coverage from Sky Sports will showcase much more of our compelling match action to fans, while delivering record rights values as we seek to make our clubs sustainable at all levels.

"With some 20 million attending Sky Bet EFL matches each season and significant interest in the League at home and abroad, we look forward to growing our collective fanbase further.”

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