The future of the Premier League, in the short team at least, has been laid out for all to see.
Pay per view matches – attempted and shelved in the first part of the 21st century – are set for a comeback due to the extended period of time without fans allowed inside stadiums.
An announcement by the Premier League stated all games outside of the existing allocation of Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video matches will be shown exclusively live on Sky Sports Box Office and BT Sport Box Office in the coming months.
Games on box office channels will be priced at £14.95 each and, though they will not require a Sky Sports or BT Sport subscription, many will already be shelling out monthly fees for those services.
All of that money will go directly to Premier League clubs, not Sky or BT, with the broadcasters only being used in the absence of an official, dedicated Premier League platform.
That leaves us with a very simple question: will you be one of the customers paying for individual Premier League fixtures to be shown on a PPV channel?
On one hand, it could be argued the fee is half that of an average Premier League match ticket and, if split between a family, socially-distanced friends or other groups of six, it actually works out at very little expense to watch matches that would otherwise go unseen.
Also, many non-top six clubs are rarely featured on TV under regular circumstances and when they are, they’re usually a sideshow or a whipping boy for Liverpool, Manchester City and other ‘big’ names.
The new system means every team will be shown every week. You may not be keen on the idea of paying £14.95 to watch Aston Villa v Sheffield United but John, 54, from Birmingham, die-hard Villa fan and season ticket holder of 30 years might consider that a small price to pay to watch his beloved.
As mentioned, that money will also go straight into clubs’ pockets, not broadcasters, to take a little of the sting away from losing gate receipts and other forms of matchday income, but that’s where the argument against begins…
Transfer spending topped £1 billion during the summer window, plus eye-watering wages and staggering agent fees to consider on top of that.
Therefore, the argument goes: if clubs are in a position to spend potentially hundreds of millions of pounds each – or at least commit to such an outlay – do they even need the relatively small fees they may receive from PPV games?
Plus, we all witnessed football in lockdown. The onslaught of games every single night of the week, the breathless action, the constant flow of drama to shake off the tedious nature of lockdown. Games that were once free are now being chalked up at premium cost.
Some big matches will slide behind the paywall, meaning your near-£100 monthly spend on Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime will be rendered useless in those circumstances.
Other major sports leagues around the world have dedicated OTT streaming services available for a fraction of the cost per game, yet Premier League fans are being forced to pay top dollar during exceedingly testing times for many people.
The debate will rage on throughout the season and into the future. We don’t know how this is going to end, we don’t know what is coming next, but this is the ‘new normal’ are you buying into it?
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