The universally-hated decision to charge £14.95 to watch Premier League games not shown by Sky or BT Sport could be scrapped in a remarkable U-turn.
Each of the 20 top-flight clubs will have a vote on whether the pay-per-view system will be continued for the final round of fixtures prior to the international break, or whether the controversial idea will be ditched altogether when the Premier League returns on November 21.
At the end of the 2019/20 campaign, with most UK households plunged into lockdown, the Premier League allowed broadcasters to show every single match for free. It was a move overwhelmingly approved by the clubs themselves, with 19 voting in favour of the pricing model and only Leicester City going against the grain.
Sky and BT are back to their standard subscription broadcasts for the games they have chosen to show, while the rest of the fixture list can be viewed on Box Office services at £14.95 a pop for fans who currently aren’t allowed in the stadium.
That price has drawn criticism from a number of key figures in the sport, including Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley – a man not known for his desire to please the people – who claims the fee should be capped at £4.95 per game.
It has been suggested that the broadcasters are furious that their reputation is being tarnished for a decision that wasn’t theirs, and the viewing figures suggest that fans are voting with their feet.
For the first two rounds of matches for which the PPV option was offered, the average viewership per game was around 40,000, with only two of the nine fixtures shown averaging over 70,000.
Three of the games averaged fewer than 10,000 viewers, and while the actual figures haven’t been released the suggestion is that the social media rumours that Burnley vs West Brom accrued just 74 viewers are wide of the mark – even if The Mirror reported that they had been told the number was ‘exceptionally low’.
Leaked figures suggest just 74 people paid to watch West Brom Burnley on PPV
— . (@FinKitch) October 19, 2020
Hundreds of Fans Opted to Donate PPV Fee
However, it’s perhaps not all been doom and gloom. A huge number of fans have boycotted the games, instead donating their fee to a variety of charities – in total, more than £300,000 has been raised.
Liverpool raised £120,000 by boycotting their 2-1 win over Sheffield United, and that money was donated to a local food bank – that has seen increasing numbers of users with the city and some of its surrounding areas in Tier 3 lockdown.
Both Newcastle and Leeds United fans refused to pay to their watch their sides play against Manchester United and Aston Villa, and in doing so they each raised around £60,000 – the Magpies donated their funds to a food bank, and Leeds to a number of local charitable efforts.
Many other groups of supporters have also got involved, and the amount raised is now going towards causes that need it the most rather than lining the pockets of the bigwigs at the Premier League.
The topic has already reached parliament, and on November 9 ministers will meet to discuss a 200,000 strong petition calling for the PPV scheme to be abolished.