I've just read that a Birmingham licensee has been told that if she shows Sky Sport illegally again, she could end up paying £50,000 and may even be sent to prison. This only the latest in a series of prosecutions of pubs and bars, and if you put 'pub illegal sky sports ' into Google, you'll find loads more. Sky says that it is committed to protecting pubs who invest in legitimate Sky Sports subscriptions, and while there must be some truth in that, I'm certain that protecting Sky's profits is the main motivation. There is nothing wrong with that in itself - Sky is a capitalist company, and it is the raison d'être of such companies to make profits - but does Sky represent good value for money?
The Sky website gives no indication of charges, but I read in a newspaper article that Sky costs pubs around £15,000 a year. Recovering that amount requires a massive number of bar sales. I have come across pubs who discontinued Sky because it wasn't paying its way. I have also been in pubs where: the sport is on but no one is looking at it; the pub is largely empty; or where people have turned around and walked out when they've seen that a noisy, large screen showing sport is dominating the room. I am usually in the last group. I have been told that, even when you have a pub full of sport fans, many of them make one or two drinks last the whole match, which doesn't do wonders for the takings.
We in this country are often described as sports mad, but this is all hype generated by the media which stands to gain if it can encourage more of us to tune in to sporting events. The reality is that sport is a minority interest that often gets far fewer viewers than dramas, soaps, and even so-called reality shows. Big name events, such as the Cup Final, the Grand National, Wimbledon and the Olympics will always get lots of viewers, but these are the exceptions. Big crowds of males (they're almost all males) in front of large, noisy screens do deter some drinkers, including people like myself who tend to drink rather more than they do. I know I'm not the only one who prefers not to be encircled by a crowd of testosterone-fuelled fans shouting pointlessly at a referee who is hundreds of miles away.
I have no doubt that some pubs find providing Sky Sports worthwhile, but I'd seriously doubt that the massive investment required would help less successful pubs, and possibly may have a detrimental effect. When Sky salespeople are extolling the worth of their product to a pub or bar, do they explain that their product may deter some custom? Or are they just peddling the myth that we are all enthralled by sport?
I know I'm not.