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Ukraine v England to be online only

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The phone has been buzzing off the hook today with news that England’s World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on Saturday is going to be broadcast on the internet only. If you want to watch the Three Lions play an uncompetitive competitive game (if you catch our drift) you’re going to have to fork out at least £4.99, and that price will rise Easyjet-style the closer it gets to the game, up to £11.99 on Saturday.

The match will be shown on the Ukraine v England website with rumours circulating that national newspapers are going to stream the games on their site for a similar fee – although none of the journalists we’ve spoken to today have an inkling about this, clear as mud then!

The first thing to say is that this isn’t the FA’s fault – the rights to games abroad are held by the host nation and it seems the Ukrainian FA have sold these on to a company called Kentaro.

Secondly, the FSF has always argued that competitive England fixtures, which in reality this is, should appear on terrestrial TV.

Broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV appear unwilling to meet the price demanded by Kentaro which has lead to the game being internet only – although the cinema chain Odeon will show the game live at venues around England.

This is a pretty unique experiment, and broadcasters everywhere will be keeping a beady eye on the results, but we’ve been asked time and again how we think this will go.

Without being able to predict the future we can’t be sure but the FSF’s guess is that it won’t be too much of a success.

Half the fun of watching football on TV is a few pints with your mates down the pub, it’s a social activity. The last thing we want to do on a Saturday night is sit in front of a laptop for two hours. Even if your mates come round, they might get crumbs in the keyboard. It’s just not for us.

There have also been questions raised about whether most people’s broadband connections are good enough to deliver a decent picture quality. We’ll leave that to the technological obsessives but there’s no fun in watching a stuttering stream, that’s for sure.

Of course people have been watching football on the internet for years now via free, illegal streams. We’re not quite sure if the news that Kentaro have Sven as a pundit will be enough to sway people to part with a fiver.

Who knows, maybe there is a viable commercial market (whatever the wrongs and rights of pay-per-view) for internet streaming in the future – but with England already on their way to South Africa, we’d be surprise if this game taps it.

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