England soccer fans will only be able to watch Saturday’s World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on the Internet after negotiations to broadcast it on television collapsed.
Failed sports channel Setanta had been due to televise the game, but following its demise other channels such as Sky, the BBC and ITV, do not want to pay the rights fee, particularly as England have already sealed their place in the finals in South Africa. International sports rights agency Kentaro, who hold the rights to the game in Dnipro, have now opted to license the game as a pay-per-view feed on the Worldwide Web. Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will provide expert analysis during the match, which will also be available in some cinemas across Britain, but not other commercial outlets such as bars and restaurants. The decision has enraged fans and England supporters’ spokesman Mark Perryman told Press Association that it set an unwelcome precedent for the future. Would you pay to watch live football online
England seal World Cup finals spot
England brush aside Kazakhstan in Almaty
England edge Ukraine in Group Six qualifier
“I find it outrageous. FIFA and UEFA should make it a condition of entry to World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns that games must be sold only free-to-air, both to the home market and the away market,” he said. “At 5.15 on a Saturday night, most of the England fans I know will not want to be sitting in front of a computer, even for an England game. “A computer screen isn’t really something you can sit around on the sofa with your family and mates, so I think the viewing figures are going to be low,” he added. But Kentaro boss Peter Silverstone said the deal was a “natural progression” in line with other developments in live sports broadcasting. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The distinction between media is becoming ever-increasingly blurred, and your television screen is becoming your Internet screen as well,” “I think in six months’ time to a year, this conversation, this hype, will be moot, because we are ever-increasingly watching content on the Internet, and an England match may be the first but it won’t be the last.” The subscription deal is limited to one million customers, with prices rising from about $8 dollars to those that sign up first to over $18 for later sign ups. Fears over the quality of the signal of between 450 and 800 megabytes has led to the decision to limit the offer to individuals, with Silverthorne claiming that it would not “show well” on a large plasma screen. The English Football Association (FA) insisted the decision to air the match on the Internet was out of their hands. FA director of communications Adrian Bevington said in a statement. “It is the host nation and their commercial agents who have the authority to sell the rights for away fixtures.” England clinched their place in the finals with a 5-1 home win over Croatia in the previous round of qualifiers, but Ukraine still have hopes of clinching second in the group and a playoff spot.