Premier League clubs want to pull the plug on pay-per-view broadcasts as the new Government lockdown increases pressure to make more games free-to-air.
Newcastle, Leicester and West Ham have already called for dramatic price cuts in the service, and a motion to scrap it altogether is expected to be tabled when the clubs meet again on Thursday.
The shareholders acknowledged last week selling off matches on BT and Sky Sports’ box office channels had been a disaster for the league’s reputation. Yet despite blistering criticism from fans and MPs in recent weeks, viewing figures have averaged 39,000 per match, marginally above the league’s target. As a result, the clubs agreed then that the controversial £14.95 benchmark would continue until the international break.
However, the clubs are wary of causing any more PR headaches as a second lockdown looms. The deal will either be reduced by £5 from the middle of November, or even scrapped, two senior executives said on Sunday night. The Premier League said the situation was unchanged from last week.
The top tier and the English Football League are largely sheltered from the new lockdown, however public health experts would like greater consistency between the two competitions over their testing regimes. The EFL says it is constantly reviewing its testing methods.
“Professional football has implemented some of the most stringent, robust and regularly reviewed protocols since the restart in June 2020 and our medical experts’ advice remains in place to fully adhere to these measures which are specifically designed to mitigate against the spread of the virus,” the league added.
“The health, safety and well-being of players and Club staff throughout the pandemic has been our first priority and this will continue as we enter this next period of lockdown and beyond.”
Board members for the EFL also meet on Thursday and there is hope that progress can be made over a rescue package which was described as “more urgent than ever” by the competition on Sunday night.
Mike Ashley, the Sports Direct billionaire who failed this summer in an attempt to sell Newcastle United to Saudi Arabia, said last week that the Premier League should share PPV profits with the cash-strapped EFL to ease some of the current financial pressure.
“Charging £14.95 for single televised matches in the current climate is not acceptable to any football fan,” he added. “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?”