Lib Dems condemn England internet match

By Liz Stephens

The Liberal Democrats have launched an attack on the decision to make Saturday’s England football match only available online, warning that this will alienate fans.

Only internet subscribers paying £4.99 each will be able to watch England v Ukraine this weekend and the charges will rise to £9.99 for those who subscribe on Thursday and Friday and £11.99 on the day of the match.

There was also widespread criticism from fans after it was revealed that viewing will be limited to a maximum of one million subscribers.

It will also be at the mercy of broadband speeds.

Liberal Democrat sport spokesman Don Foster said: “England games should be as widely available to the public as possible, preferably on free-to-air television.

“Using the internet is an innovative idea. but the reality is that many fans will miss out because they don’t have internet access at home and their local pub cannot easily screen the game.

“This is just another example of football’s love affair with money – making a fast buck always takes priority over the interests of the fans.”

England games have always traditionally been available on TV but since the collapse of Setanta, who owned the original UK rights to tonight’s game, a specialist digital sports company Perform has been appointed to stream the match over the internet.

Andrew Croker executive chairman of Perform said: “Millions of people around the world follow live sports online and this shows a real sign of the times – we’re extremely excited to be involved in this landmark event.”

Although terrestrial channel ITV has the rights to England home games and away ‘friendlies’ their remit does not cover away qualifying games.

None of the other major terrestrial and satellite companies was willing to bid the amount that was being asked for rights to screen the match – this is partly because England have already qualified for the 2010 World Cup, winning all eight of their group matches.

The match will be shown on the website and also in Odeon cinemas around the country.