While it’s still unknown whether high school football games will be allowed in Ohio or not, it’s safe to assume if contests are allowed, severe spectator limitations will be in place.
In anticipation of this, the Ohio High School Athletic Association voted to allow live video broadcasts of Friday night high school football games for the first time — which would not only allow for some fans to see games that otherwise could not, but also provides another avenue for schools to collect revenue.
The OHSAA board of directors has accepted a proposal from OHSAA staff that now allows schools to seek rights fees from local media outlets or video production companies to provide live video of their home regular-season Friday night football games during the 2020 season.
Since the mid-1990s, live video of Friday night regular-season football games has only been permitted by the host school on the school-owned TV station or website or the school-controlled webpage, leaving media to show Friday night games only on delay. At the time, that regulation was added at the request of a majority of OHSAA member schools to protect ticket revenue from their home games and have a statewide policy.
While continuing to provide their own live video, a growing number of schools have asked to partner with third-party sources to generate revenue from rights fees and pay-per-view of their Friday night home football games due to decreased crowd sizes that are expected this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Schools are already permitted to do that for all other regular-season contests in any sport, and regular-season football games that are not played on Fridays.
“We believe that many of our schools will be able to work with partners to stream and televise their home regular-season football games,” OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring said. “Most of our schools rely on revenue from their home football games to help fund their athletic department, so this is one way that schools can still do that while facing limited ticket sales.”
Spectrum News 1 is the official TV partner of the OHSAA and will resume its Friday Night Game of the Week programming throughout the state. Of note, live video of any OHSAA postseason tournament contest is still only permitted by the official TV partner of the OHSAA or with OHSAA approval.
As always, the host school controls media access and seating in the press box. Due to the pandemic, some schools will limit the number of people in the press box.
The OHSAA and Board of Directors will reevaluate the regulation prior to the 2021 season.