So don’t pay. It really is that simple. If, like many, you are outraged by the plan to charge £14.95 for some Premier League matches, the solution has never been clearer.
Just say no. To this, to ludicrous third strips, to a new first-team shirt every year, to any of football’s over-rated, over-priced innovations.
No. You may not have the latest gear, you may not see your team as much this season, you may be hacking into a grainy, glitchy, delayed feed that will fill your laptop with cookies and spyware from hardcore porn channels, but that’s the trade-off.
Premier League clubs voted unanimously on Friday to launch a new pay-per-view service at £14.95 for every match that is not being shown by one of the main UK broadcasters
No. And if everyone did it then this plan, like the 39th game, like the handball rules that have been rescinded and tweaked within three weeks of the season starting, would fade away.
But they won’t, because some will pay that, just as they will buy the horrid change kit and invest in the garish pre-match training designs, and all the other over-priced junk that is part of the fan experience these days.
And £14.95 is steep, in a recession. Yet so is £108million for Jadon Sancho, and everybody thought Manchester United should entertain that, including Gary Neville who is against the pay-per-view plan.
Who is hit hardest?
Saturday 3pm games to be shown on pay-per-view during October by club
3 – Fulham, West Bromwich Albion
2 – Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Southampton, Burnley, Chelsea, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace
1 – Leicester City, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Arsenal, Leeds United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Wolves
0 – Manchester City, West Ham, Everton
It was also thought Burnley had a bad transfer window because they only brought in two players. And that West Ham’s summer was a disgraceful failure because they made a transfer profit. So we can’t have it all ways. Your club cannot buy Thomas Partey, and prop up the three tiers below, while giving away their product for nothing.
They cannot provide the lockdown entertainment for millions, while the Government open up the Royal Albert Hall but keep football stadiums closed. The money for this, whether largesse or extravagance, has to come from somewhere. But it can’t come from you, unless you let it. You have the choice. And you always did.
What is wrong is that some season ticket holders at clubs such as Newcastle are still waiting for refunds, or have paid deposits, and are now being asked to donate again. Either technology fixes that, so they do not pay twice, or they should be recompensed, immediately.
A friend has already given Tottenham £200 to secure his seat this season, non-refundable. Why should he then be paying £14.95 on top? Give the man his money back, or find a way not to charge him for the fixture with Brighton on October 31. That is only fair. Ed Woodward made that argument to his fellow chief executives, apparently, and lost.
Yet plainly, with so many wrinkles, this is an act of desperation. Football played ball with the Government last season, in the hope that fans would begin to trickle back by October. Now that date has passed and while arenas such as the O2 are opening up again in time for Christmas, there is no sign of similar consideration for football’s plight.
The Government are applying pressure on the Premier League to bail out the EFL, ignoring the fact that the financial crisis below would not be so acute if a trickle of socially-distanced fans in outdoor arenas were gradually permitted.
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher (left), Gary Neville (centre) and presenter Kelly Cates at a Premier League match earlier this year
Clubs know they cannot give games away for free, fund an EFL bail-out and still fund lavish moves for superstar players (left, Manchester United signed Alex Telles; right, Kai Havertz)
This is exhausting the well of goodwill. Included in that was permission to be used as Covid’s equivalent of bread and circuses — the twin commodities the Roman poet Juvenal said were needed to satisfy the masses.
And the Premier League has been a wonderful circus this season, the most captivating opening to a campaign in recent memory. But the Government cannot expect the ringmaster to keep giving the tickets away, without prospect of return.
Maybe this season’s goal glut is what has persuaded the Premier League clubs to charge £14.95 to continue watching the whole show. Not that anyone is thinking a neutral will pay that for West Brom versus Burnley on October 19. This is solely aimed at devotees. Few are expecting traffic from those without skin in the game.
Many complain that they already pay an exorbitant price for football via subscription channels. Yet that service still exists.
Sky Sports and BT Sport will continue to show the bigger matches but cannot give rest away
Provided they have Sky and BT, Everton fans will avoid pay-per-view through to November
BT Sport still have the match of the weekend on October 17, Everton v Liverpool. Sky will still show Manchester City v Arsenal, Crystal Palace v Brighton, Tottenham v West Ham — probably Gareth Bale’s debut — and Leeds v Wolves across three days.
The rest of it costs extra. But it was ever thus. Football only became free during the Covid lockdown. Before, the five games not selected for broadcast were either available on Match of the Day’s highlights or to those who paid in the stadium. Now the faithful will pay on TV. And again: that’s up to you.
Of course, there are discrepancies. Between October 17 and November 2, supporters of Aston Villa, Fulham and West Brom must pay £44.85 to keep following their teams. Meanwhile, provided they have Sky and BT packages, fans of Everton, Manchester City and West Ham will pay nothing. All their games are existing TV picks.
That might even itself up over a season or it might not. At the moment, the Premier League do not seem to know. This is the act of a sport in increasing distress. Some are confusing greed with blind panic.