Premier League clubs are under fire over a scheme that has made certain matches pay-per-view and may be forced into a humiliating U-turn after the satellite broadcasters reported disastrous viewing figures for the affected games.
With fans still banned from attending games in person, the only way that they can watch games in the UK live is by taking out subscriptions to the two main satellite broadcasters, Sky Sports and BT Sports.
These do not come cheap, especially when it is considered that many households this year find their incomes squeezed because of the financial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, in an attempt to clawback some of the revenue that they have lost, the Premier League clubs decided to make games which had not been selected for broadcast by one of the satellite broadcasters as pay-per-view at a cost of £14.95 (US $19.50) per game.
That, though, has provoked a furious backlash from fans, many of whom have refused to pay the extra money. Instead supporters’ groups have organised campaigns to give the money that would have been paid to watch the games to good causes instead. Newcastle fans gave over £20,000 to a food bank in the Newcastle area, and more than £100,000 was donated by Liverpool fans to a food bank in the city.
In the most recent example on Sunday night, Arsenal fans, rather than watch their side play Leicester in the Premier League, donated nearly £35,000 to charities in the Islington area.
Even Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, a man not known for his philanthropic views, has called for the plans to be reviewed, saying they had been overwhelmingly rejected by fans. He has said that the price per game should be reduced to a more reasonable amount.
Even the two broadcasters are unhappy, because they have been portrayed in a bad light, when they were just trying to provide an extra service. They were not responsible for setting the original price, and they claim they are not making any profit from it, just covering the costs.
Instead, any surplus income is meant to go to the clubs themselves.
Faced with a mounting PR disaster, some sort of climbdown is expected when clubs meet later this week.