The Premier League are under increasing pressure to abandon their controversial pay-per-view fixtures after large numbers of fans boycotted the first round of games.
Supporters’ groups of Manchester United and Newcastle, who faced each other on Sunday night on Sky Sports Box Office, revealed many of their fans had donated £14.95 to local foodbanks instead of paying that figure to watch their teams on pay-per-view.
Sky Sports, BT Sport and the Premier League have all faced huge criticism following the decision to charge fans £14.95 to watch each game that was not already due to be broadcast, even though supporters could watch the extra matches after the restart last season at no extra cost to their subscriptions.
The Premier League is under more pressure to scrap pay-per-view games after a fan boycott
Manchester United’s clash with Newcastle was the second PPV fixture aired on Saturday
‘It is wrong for so many reasons,’ Alex Hurst, chairman of the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust, told Sportsmail. ‘It is far too expensive. The fact it has come from nowhere suggests a total lack of planning from the Premier League, making short-term decisions for short-term gain. There has been no supporter consultation. It just doesn’t sit right.
‘Fans of top-six clubs won’t have to pay as much because they are on television more than other teams. Newcastle were due to be on television around 17 times last season before lockdown. So that would leave 21 games that we have to pay for. Manchester United and Liverpool were on 29 times. How is that fair or reasonable?
‘I know a lot of fans who have donated instead of paying their money to Sky. We have made our feelings known to the football club and the Football Supporters’ Association and to the PL at a meeting on Thursday. We aren’t going to try to tell people what to do in their lives but if they want to boycott it, we would support them.’
This was the holding screen on BT Sport’s pay-per-view channel before kick-off on Saturday
Sky Sports had only offered 15 minutes of pre-match analysis of their match before kick-off
Manchester United Supporters’ Trust also used their social media account to promote a foodbank scheme for their fans who wanted to protest. They said: ‘Sky Sports and BT Sport must end their collusion with Premier League clubs to rip off fans by charging £15 to view games during a pandemic. This is a very poor way to treat fans and their subscribers, who already pay them huge amounts.’
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the pricing was ‘defensible’ for a ‘premium product’ but insisted that it was the broadcasters who set the £14.95 price, though it is understood the league told Sky and BT what they wanted their cut to be and the broadcasters added in their own costs to produce the games.
Sky and BT fear they could even make a loss on the pay-per-view matches while it is believed the Premier League hope to raise about £40m from the venture.
It is also understood that, due to the uproar between the ‘Big Six’ and the rest of the Premier League over Project Big Picture at the stakeholders meeting last week, they did not get round to agreeing how the pay-per-view revenue would be split between the clubs.
Richard Masters defended the pricing and also said viewers could expect a ‘premium product’
Liverpool will appear on pay-per-view next weekend and their supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly said they will continue to pressure the league and broadcasters to remove the ‘outrageous’ charge.
‘The main reasons we are totally against it is the economic situation the country finds itself in, the public health situation, particularly in Tier 3 areas like ours, and the implications and risk around that,’ Joe Blott, the organisation’s chairman, told Sportsmail.
‘And then, if there is to be a PPV contribution, it needs to be affordable and it’s not.’
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