The Premier League looks set to take a major step towards the end of £14.95 pay-per-view games today as club chiefs rail against the failures of the controversial scheme.
Figureheads from each top flight team are set to convene at 11am to begin the process of discussing the PPV system and its ongoing role within Premier League football.
The scheme has dominated talk for several weeks, following its introduction to charge supporters an additional premium cost to watch their team play at a time when the world is still in a fragile situation.
Premier League clubs will meet at 11am today to discuss the future of pay-per-view matches
At present matches that are outside the scheduled TV broadcast selections are available on BT Sport Box Office or Sky Sports Box Office for £14.95 per game, a figure which has infuriated the masses and key figures within the sport.
The change was brought in during the early part of October, prior to which matches had been free-to-air on TV as football came to term with its new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Clubs had agreed the concept was to be an ‘interim’ solution, though the venom with which the backlash has carried has prompted immediate action, with many sides now giving serious consideration to completely axing the idea.
Burnley’s goalless draw with West Brom was quickly held up as a poster example of why the scheme simply should not be in place, while the PPV airing of Fulham versus Crystal Palace was also widely slammed.
So what is the current state of play, who are the big voices and what could we be looking at next after Tuesday’s meeting? Sportsmail takes a closer look…
What happens next?
All teams will huddle around the same table to discuss the pros and cons of a system which appears to be failing very rapidly.
Widespread discontent must be addressed, with chief figures from each club putting forward their opinion on if and how PPV should be handled going forward.
An assessment will be made regarding how the system has played out so far, taking into account the impact on fan bases and how they have responded to its implementation.
Fans are being asked to pay £14.95-a-match to watch half of the top-flight matches this season
A series of proposals are expecting to be put forward, one of which is likely to include a full scrapping of the PPV concept, while others will look at tweaks and alterations along with cost reduction.
Attending personnel will then vote in favour of how they feel the next steps should be taken, with news of any decision expected to come out of the meeting and be made public knowledge on Tuesday evening.
What is the most likely outcome?
Barring any immediate and drastic changing, such as an immediate removal of the PPV idea, a likely turning point is set to be the next international break.
Last week the Premier League announced the next run of fixtures scheduled for live broadcast, with a series of matches changing days as a result.
After outlining which games had been moved for TV purposes however, the Premier League rather interestingly did not offer any form of confirmation as to which games would be set up as PPV.
The football body simply listed the fixtures as either Sky Sports or BT Sports owned, while the statement of fixture rearrangement made no reference to the ongoing paid system.
The system is likely to remain in place until the international break in mid November
It is therefore understood that today’s meeting could have serious bearing on what happens next, with the fixture list offering a break-point in the form of the upcoming international break.
Premier League teams will continue to face each other up until the weekend of November 7 and 8, at which points clubs will part for the international break before reconvening on Saturday, November 21.
It is understood the PPV scheme could remain in place up until that point, with the return of football after international action offering a good opportunity to implement wholesale changes.
Today’s meeting will therefore go a long way to determining whether that change upon resumption of the league is to completely abandon the idea.
Who is for the idea?
Very few people indeed.
The Premier League hatched the concept as a result of Government action in October, when plans for a slow reintroduction of fans to football stadiums were abandoned.
Health guidelines dictated that the move would not be possible due to the steadily rising figures of Covid-19 once more, with the country desperate to avoid the situation of high contraction rates during the winter period.
PPV football was therefore drafted in as a way of generating income, though was immediate met with both scepticism and anger.
Despite having had time to prepare for the change, the overwhelmingly critical response appears to have caught the league by surprise.
After Premier League shareholders give the green light for the system during a meeting at the start of the month, it is reported that Leicester City were the only club to vote against the idea in a 19-1 ruling.
Though Sky Sports and BT Sports are heavily linked with the idea, sources from within both broadcast giants have expressed their disapproval and shown a concern that the process itself may be damaging their brand and public image.
Who is against the idea?
How long have you got? The list is quite sizable.
Sky and BT’s unhappiness with the idea show just how poorly the whole thing has been handled.
One Sky source previously told the Mirror: ‘Sky is not happy to be involved in showing the pay-per-view games. We never thought it was a good idea and nothing’s changed since it started.’
Chiefs at both BT Sport and Sky Sports are said to be very much against the PPV system
The view is also reflected among many of the big business names in football, which may come as a surprise to many.
Even Newcastle’s controversial owner Mike Ashley has publicly shunned the concept, saying it is ‘not acceptable in the current climate’ to be asking supporters to pay £14.95 to watch a match from home.
Ashley’s Newcastle were the first side in the division to be placed on a PPV match slot, during their home clash against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United.
It is estimated that the fixture, in which United took a 4-1 victory, attracted just 40,000 paying customers in total.
Mike Ashley believes the Premier League’s new pay-per-view scheme is ‘unacceptable’
Figures have since dwindled, with certain uneventful matches held up as examples of why fans simply will not continue to fork out additional cash on top of packages they have already paid for.
Football pundit Gary Neville has also slammed the idea, branding it from the off as a ‘really bad move’ to charge for ‘single matches that have been shown free for six months.’
From within the game itself, Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has also spoken of his distaste of the idea, saying: ‘£14 is a lot of money. You cannot even share with your friends as they cannot come to your house [in London]. It is difficult.’
Is it working?
It’s safe to say it isn’t, and does not look set to improve any time soon.
In uncharacteristic fashion, broadcasters Sky and BT have not released their official figures and takings for the PPV matches, despite both regularly doing so for boxing and other blockbuster sporting events.
This has led many to assume the official figures to be embarrassingly low, as supporters turn their backs on the system early doors in hope of bringing about change.
Estimations have been taken from the paid-for matches so far, using statistics collected by the British Audience Research Board (BARB) to give a reasonably accurate view on how many people are paying.
It is estimated that only half of the 40,000 who tuned in for Newcastle and Manchester United purchased Leicester City’s clash with Aston Villa.
Last weekend’s games saw viewing figures increase, with 110,000 watching Liverpool against Sheffield United, despite mass boycotting ideas orchestrated over social media.
A further 140,000 watched Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester City on Sunday evening, though most damning of all it has been suggested that one fixture pulled in just over 1,000 purchases.
The match in question is understood to be Burnley’s 0-0 stalemate with West Brom, with fans simply refusing to pay for the fixture and feeling vindicated in the aftermath.
By contrast, Manchester United’s game against Chelsea on Saturday evening, which was on Sky Sports’ subscriber channels, averaged an audience of 1.7m viewers.
How have fans responded?
The response has been huge, and decisive, after supporters groups up and down the country decided to make a real stand and divert their money elsewhere.
Using the power of social media, fans have been organising donations to charitable causes during these testing times, rather than fuel the Premier League’s PPV plans.
Supporters have instead been donating the £14.95 to charities close to their clubs and local communities, with many generating big headlines as a result.
Collectively Premier League fans have now raised north of £300,000 in a month, as report the BBC, after channeling their cash elsewhere in order to boycott the plans.
Liverpool fans raised over £120,000 in boycotting their side’s 2-1 win over Sheffield United
Liverpool fans raised more than £120,000 for North Liverpool food bank after their win over Sheffield United on Saturday, while Leeds supporters donated £57,000 instead of paying to watch their side’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Friday.
After boycotting their 4-1 defeat to United, Newcastle fans put up more than £60,000 for the NUFC Fans Foodbank while in north London Tottenham fans have raised just shy of £20,000 despite their first pay-pay-view game not being until their home match against Brighton on 1 November.
Manchester City fans, likewise, have contributed £25,000 collectively with fans of their neighbours United to a local foodbank, despite Pep Guardiola’s side also having not had a PPV match yet.
On 9 November, the government will debate a petition about the return of fans which received more than 198,000 signatures.