At this point of the year, Arsenal has become must-see TV for soccer fans. The Gunners are sitting atop the Premier League and, on the whole, playing some attractive attacking football. Their roster boasts an exciting mix of established names and rising stars, and there’s a general buzz around the club. On Wednesday, November 9, though, Mikel Arteta’s squad be literally unwatchable.
Arsenal have a Carabao Cup match against Brighton, but the game will not be broadcast anywhere in the world. Yes, you read that correctly. A game featuring two Premier League clubs, played at one of the biggest stadiums in England, will only be viewable by the fans inside the ground.
And to think, some people wonder why the EFL Cup isn’t taken seriously.
Arsenal’s EFL Cup match isn’t being broadcast anywhere
Even within our collective lifetimes, sports fans have gotten a bit spoiled. These days, you can watch virtually any game imaginable, provided you’re willing to pay for the appropriate service. On Wednesday, though, some supporters will be traveling back in time.
Arsenal will be hosting Brighton in the Carabao Cup, and depending on your perspective, it could be an interesting match. There’s the form factor — if Mikel Arteta wants his squad to make a habit of winning, then he won’t mail this one in — and a chance to get a larger look at the club. If you’re truly invested in the Gunners and want to get a good look at someone like Marquinhos or Matt Turner, this is one of your few opportunities.
That, however, won’t be possible without a ticket. As the club’s own website notes, Arsenal’s match is “not being broadcast anywhere in the world.”
While it seems unbelievable to imagine in 2022, that decision is simply down to broadcasting choices. In the United States, for example, ESPN holds the rights to the EFL Cup and sends those games to ESPN+. According to a 2022 press release, they’ll only show 30 games across the entire competition. The problem, however, is that the third round, which is where the biggest Premier League teams enter, has 16 matches alone.
That means some matches, like Arsenal vs. Brighton, simply drop off the map.
Faced with that reality, you can’t blame supporters for taking the Carabao Cup less than seriously
These days, everyone affiliated with the bigger Premier League clubs treat the EFL Cup as something of an annoyance. While there are always a handful of exceptions, managers are generally happy to field weaker sides. Supporters are never thrilled about a defeat, but it’s not like anyone is going to cry over an early exit, especially if it allows the squad some extra rest at the business end of the season.
You could argue that’s not a healthy reality, at least from a competition perspective. If I’m working for the EFL, I would absolutely hate that my brand is viewed in that light. Even if the Carabao Cup can’t be the most prestigious tournament around, it can still carve out a better niche than “that one cup no one really cares about.”
Will changing that be an easy fix? Probably not. The schedule is jam-packed already, and it’s unlikely the biggest clubs will devote too much manpower to this tournament anytime soon. With that being said, though, no one will take the Carabao Cup seriously if things don’t feel like they matter.
That brings it back to the broadcasting options. I’m more dedicated to Arsenal than your average bear. I would tune in to see how some of the young players work and watch an interesting Brighton squad. But, because the early rounds of the EFL Cup aren’t viewed as important enough, I literally can’t. My options will be combing through Twitter, listening to audio commentary, or hoping someone in the upper deck sets up a live stream. (Don’t laugh, that latter option actually happened before.)
Having that happen when two Premier League teams are playing at Emirates Stadium is inexcusable. And it only further perpetuates the Carabao Cup being seen as little more than a waste of time.
Following the European Super League situation, Arsenal fans asked the club’s ownership, “We care, do you?” Now, I’d pose a similar question to the powers that be behind the Carabao Cup.
“If you don’t care, why should we?”