Why Leeds United’s big TV ratings are bad news for fans

Ever wondered why Leeds United repeatedly win the ratings war on TV? Amitai Winehouse discovers the reasoning behind the numbers.

Leeds United on the TV (Graphic: Graeme Bandeira)

Yorkshire can lay claim to some huge football clubs, despite the fact that it currently lacks a representative in the top flight.

However, none of those clubs possess the same popularity as Leeds United – at least when it comes to their ratings on television.

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The Whites have already been scheduled for 10 live broadcasts this season between August and January, the joint highest number selected by Sky Sports for television.

Leeds's Jason Pearce and Owls' Kieren Westwood face the cameras.

The frequency with which Leeds are broadcast has become something of a running joke among fans of other clubs.

However, supporters of the Elland Road side tend to view the decision to reschedule games with a hint of anger, as it often causes havoc with travel plans or inconveniences fans intending to travel to away games.

Last month it led to Leeds owner Massimo Cellino attempting to protest against the reshuffling by capping away tickets, a decision he later went back on.

He explained that they affect Leeds’ “revenue to a level where the club is losing money with each televised home game, as Sky’s compensation payments are not enough to cover the losses in ticketing, retail and catering.”

An investigation by The Yorkshire Post has revealed that United averaged over 150,000 more viewers than any other club in the Championship when shown at 12.30pm on Saturday, in the period between February 2013 and February 2014.

It is that sustained drawing power that explains why Leeds are so regularly shown, despite a lack of any real success on the pitch over the last few seasons.

With Sky Sports undergoing a battle with BT Sport for supremacy of the sporting airwaves, Leeds are one of the more guaranteed hits from the Football League package that the channel can turn to.

Leeds averaged 427,000 viewers for their games in the Saturday slot, compared to 275,000 for games in the rest of the second tier, not including United. The most popular broadcast not featuring Leeds and shown at 12.30pm on a Saturday was the match between QPR and Burnley on February 1, 2014, which attracted 423,000 viewers.

The derby against Sheffield Wednesday on August 17, 2013, had the highest rating for the Championship in the period explored, with 646,000 people tuning in.

Wednesday’s average in the Saturday slot is 340,000, a drop on Leeds, although above the divisional mean.

While a Yorkshire derby between Wednesday and Leeds clearly has appeal, other games between the county’s sides proved less popular.

Huddersfield Town’s visit to Hillsborough on November 23, 201,3 was only watched by an average of 178,000 viewers.

Leeds also had the highest-rated game on a Sunday for the Football League, the game against Birmingham City on October 20, 2013. Nearly 550,000 people tuned in to watch the Whites beat the Blues 4-0.

A spokesperson for the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust said: “These figures go to show just how massive the support for Leeds United is nationally. Those fans are deserving of better than to be subject to constant fixture changes, be they caused by Sky, the Police or other clubs.

“We call on the Football League to consider setting a maximum number of games per season that clubs supporters can be subjected to fixture change and a minimum three months’ notice period.”