Premier League expected to stick with pay-per-view games in early November

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·3 min read

The Premier League is expected to stick with its controversial pay-per-view arrangements for the round of games prior to the November international break, despite Newcastle owner Mike Ashley calling the price “not acceptable”.

Matches played after October’s internationals which were not selected for regular television broadcast were made available on a pay-per-view basis via Sky Sports’ or BT Sport’s box office services at £14.95 each.

The PA news agency understands clubs will receive an update on broadcast matters at a meeting on Tuesday and it is likely the current arrangements will remain in place for the matches on the weekend of November 6-8. A decision on how to proceed in the longer term is not expected to come out of the meeting.

Fans’ groups including the Football Supporters’ Association urged the league and the broadcasters to reconsider the pricing when it was announced earlier this month.

Many supporters have opted to donate money to food banks and other charitable causes instead of paying the fee.

And they gained an unlikely ally in Ashley, who suggested a VAT waiver could shrink the cost of individual games to as little as £4.95.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said earlier this month the price was “defensible” while BT Sport said it was simply covering its costs in screening these matches.

A spokesperson for the FSA said: “Our members have expressed the view that they want the ability to watch their teams legally while they remain locked out of games with the Covid-19 restrictions in place.

“However, by donating hundreds of thousands to local foodbanks instead of paying the £15 fee for pay-per-view over the past week, supporters have shown just how unpopular PPV is in its current format and pricing. It needs urgent reconsideration from the Premier League, clubs and broadcasters.”

Ashley, who explained his initial vote in favour of pay-per-view as being due to a lack of “realistic or viable alternatives”, has now proposed a reduced-price version funded by a waiver on VAT.

He said in a statement: “I am calling on the Premier League to immediately act and review its current pay-per-view arrangements for live matches in the UK.

“Charging £14.95 for single televised matches in the current climate it is not acceptable to any football fan.

“Supporters have overwhelmingly rejected this offer and the Premier League must now act.

“Why not make it much more accessible at £4.95 per match until Christmas?

“The Government should waive VAT on the above pay-per-view matches so that as many of those who are unable to attend matches in person can at least watch their team.”

Premier League clubs had hoped to welcome back some supporters to stadiums from October 1, but the Government has imposed an indefinite delay on those plans due to the rise in coronavirus cases nationwide.

The league has warned English football will lose £100million for every month fans remain barred from grounds, with the EFL stating on Sunday that the Government’s position was “frustrating and perplexing”, with indoor venues such as shopping centres and cinemas open to the public.