The Premier League's U-turn on the highly controversial pay-per-view broadcast model is proof that fans still have a powerful voice in the modern game, despite many supporters feeling as they have increasingly become a cash cow for greedy executives.
Pay-per-view Premier League games were brought in last month as a poorly judged way of trying to return to a more normal broadcast schedule even though stadiums remain closed to fans.
It was billed that the games not otherwise be chosen for live broadcast in the UK would be shown on Sky Sports Box Office or BT Sport Box Office, platforms that are usually the domain of major boxing or wrestling events. The networks would take a cut of the proceeds to cover costs, but any profit was intended to go to clubs as a way of softening the blow of non-existent matchday revenue.
Whatever the intentions, the £14.95 price tag for one-off games was a shocking PR own goal.
Fans, many of whom already pay for expensive subscription packages, were outraged and felt fleeced for even more money. There were discussions on social media that a cheaper price point might have been easier to swallow, but asking the best part of £15 took the proverbial biscuit.
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville called for it to be scrapped and even Newcastle owner Mike Ashley made rare public comments labelling the price as ‘not acceptable’.
It is said that even Sky and BT were keen to distance themselves from pay-per-view games, fearing the damage it was doing to their respective reputations. The Premier League was responsible for setting the price and the broadcasters have not been profiting, yet it was still widely perceived, wrongly, as an act of greed and a money grab on their part.
A Premier League meeting on Thursday yielded a welcome agreement to scrap pay-per-view.
Five fixtures this weekend will still be broadcast with the £14.95 price tag, but they will be the last group of games that are and a report from The Times explains that clubs have asked the Premier League to come up alternative options over the November international break.
The most likely scenario is expected to be a return to how things were during ‘Project Restart’ and in the opening weeks of the season where all games were shown live at no extra cost to existing subscription packages, which includes those made available for free on BBC and Amazon Prime.
Cheaper price points of £9.95 or £7.50 per game are said to have been considered at Thursday’s meeting, but it is said clubs considered it so damaging already it is best to scrap it altogether.
Flat out refusing to pay £14.95, fans of a number of Premier League clubs have actively boycotted the pay-per-view games in recent weeks and instead donated money to charities and food banks. It is estimated that around £300,000 has been raised in this way.
That Premier League sides have seen the response and changed strategy accordingly is a refreshing reminder that fans do still matter and have a voice to hold clubs to account.
The Daily Mirror has suggested that pay-per-view does remain on the table, however, and may be revisited in the future because a handful of games did attract ‘good figures’. That could be a worrying development if it does come back, but it would foolish or brazen individuals who try and resurrect it when the reaction was so resoundingly negative first time around.
Source : 90min