'PR DISASTER'

Premier League pay-per-view plan will ‘drive fans towards illegal streams’

“It is going to drive people towards piracy,” said Kieran Maguire.

In Summary

• The Premier League clubs see the “interim solution” as a way for people to still watch their teams, but some fans have criticised the £14.95 charge.

• Spectators have been unable to attend Premier League games since football was halted in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

General view of a TV Cameraman filming a game
General view of a TV Cameraman filming a game
Image: /REUTERS

Broadcasting Premier League matches on a pay-per-view basis will lead to fans watching on illegal streams, says a football finance expert.

Games not already picked to be shown live will be available on BT Sport Box Office or Sky Sports Box Office.

The Premier League clubs see the “interim solution” as a way for people to still watch their teams, but some fans have criticised the £14.95 charge.

“It is going to drive people towards piracy,” said Kieran Maguire.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the Price Of Football author described the Premier League’s pricing scheme as a “public relations disaster”, adding: “It discriminates against the clubs that don’t tend to be on Sky Sports or BT that often.”

Spectators have been unable to attend Premier League games since football was halted in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the 2019-20 top-flight season resumed in June, the remaining 92 matches were shown live via the Premier League’s broadcast partners, and that has been the case so far this term.

Some fans have criticised the planned price - a similar scheme for English Football League clubs costs £10 per game, others are already paying subscription fees to BT Sport and Sky Sports, and season ticket holders at some clubs are paying for tickets despite not being allowed into the stadiums.

“The Premier League’s argument, which is EFL clubs are charging £10 so we should be charging more because we have more cameras, is also flawed,” said Maguire.

“The cameras were already going to be there because the matches would have been shown on Match of the Day anyway, so the set-up costs would be minimal.”

Top-flight clubs voted 19-1 in favour of the pay-per-view scheme on Friday - with Leicester City the only one to vote against it - but Maguire says it “goes against the grain” of government advice.

“Families and friends are going to gather together, which completely goes against what we are trying to achieve by discouraging people from going into other people’s houses,” he added.

“If they got the pricing right it might have been fine, but nobody actually knows what is happening with the money.

“Is it going into a central pot? Is it being used to bail out lower league clubs? Or is it going to be kept by the individual clubs who are playing these particular matches?

“It all seems to be a bit ill-thought through.”

The Premier League would not comment on the issue of piracy. However, last month it announced it had obtained “enhanced” powers to shut down illegal streaming services, known as a “Super Block”.

The Premier League has said it and its clubs “remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible”.

The Premier League and UK government had hoped to bring supporters back into stadiums from 1 October, but those plans were scrapped following an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Former Manchester United and England right-back Gary Neville, now a Sky Sports pundit, said on social media it was a “really bad move” by the Premier League.

Those comments were echoed by West Ham United independent supporters’ association member, Sue Watson, who told BBC Radio 5 Live that the scheme is “not going to fly”.

“It in no way reflects the financial realities that a large number of supporters find themselves in, with fragility of jobs,” she added.

Former Premier League winner and BBC Football Focus pundit Chris Sutton said it was a “terrible look”.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic. People are losing their jobs. We have seen the money the Premier League clubs have spent on transfer fees, the money they have spent on agents. It doesn’t sit right with football supporters,” he added.

“Leicester come out of it well, but it is baffling to the football supporter that they are being charged extra in these times.

“The Premier League has got this one really badly wrong.”