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Should Internet charge for England game?

Upon this publication, time will have told how many England fans will have paid to watch their country on the internet against Ukraine. Of course there are those die-hard fans that will have made the pilgrimage to Kiev, whilst those that could not make the journey, but would never miss a second of their beloved Three Lions, will certainly have forked out to watch.

But how about the many thousands of football fans that can ill afford to pay, nor want to pay, for watching their own country in a World Cup qualifier? It is of course true that Setanta originally owned the rights to this match, and worth noting that one would have to pay for Setanta to watch. However this in itself is something of an indignity; how can it be that any TV license-payer is not entitled to watch their home nation in an official match? It beggars belief, and stinks of money-grabbing corporations looking to squeeze dry the committed fan.

It is thus even more galling when such corporations, with cross-hairs pointed firmly at Sky Sports and Rupert Murdoch’s war chest, refuse to pay for the rights to this game after the collapse of Setanta Sports.

“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,” Perform executive chairman Andrew Croker said. ‘Perform’ is the company lucky enough to be broadcasting the match over the internet. Mr. Croker’s argument appears redundant however, upon analysis of his words. “Millions follow live sports online” – millions follow sport online either through avenues such as Sky Player (only available to those THAT PAY FOR SKY), whilst others stream live sport through illegal means or pirate channels.

This is certainly not a criticism of such individuals; in fact any way to launder free sporting viewing should be applauded in these eyes, but merely a critique of how ridiculous it is that fans should be denied the right to watch their home nations for free. Andrew Croker then goes on to dub this match a “landmark event” – does this mean that many more matches will be shown online? Does this therefore mean that for those that pay for Sky Sports, have previously paid for Setanta Sports, also pay for ESPN AND pay their compulsory TV licence will also be forced to pay to watch online? It is truly ludicrous that fans should be forced to pay so much, because the FA certainly is not short of a bob or two when you consider that amount of money thrown at Fabio Capello to entice him to coach England.

Whether fans have stumped up the cash or not is almost irrelevant, it is the principle of the matter. Companies like the BBC, ITV and Sky will point to the fact that they almost certainly would have made a loss had they bought the rights to the game, but therein lies the exact truth – such corporations are truly and solely focused on making their profits and care little, if at all, for the average football follower.

Hopefully England will have won, hopefully those fans that are loyal enough to pay will have seen a decent game and a good English performance, but then again how much real enjoyment can one take from having to watch your team, your country, whilst probably crammed around a little laptop with your mates struggling to work out who is passing to whom?

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