Football: Nationwide to embrace pay-per-view

MANCHESTER UNITED versus Liverpool comes "free" with a Sky subscription tomorrow night but even if it had to be paid for on a pay-per-view basis there would be no shortage of viewers willing to pledge their pounds 5 or pounds 10.

Apart from the two red armies, many neutrals would be willing to pay to see such a heavyweight meeting. But Portsmouth versus Port Vale? Gillingham versus Blackpool? Or Barnet versus Carlisle? How many neutrals would pay for that? How many fans for that matter? The Football League intends to find out. It will see out the old year and welcome in the new with the first step of a new era in which every game could be available, at a price.

While there may be a sense of quiet satisfaction should the Football League beat the Premier League to the distinction of being the first body to show a pay-per-view match in England - and the Premiership also have imminent plans to do so - this is not about one-upmanship but about trying to maintain a three-division professional league outside of the Premiership. Among other innovations being considered by an organisation undergoing radical change is the establishment of a salary cap among its clubs. A common feature in American sport and rugby league, it would be a controversial development even if the idea is to save clubs from themselves.

The pay-per-view experiment would open up with one of the Nationwide League's more attractive fixtures - perhaps Sunderland, who are currently packing them in at the Stadium of Light, or Manchester City, who are even managing to pull in full houses in the Second Division. Possible fixtures could include Manchester City versus Stoke or Sunderland versus Crewe on 28 December, or Bournemouth versus Fulham on 2 January. Once the principle is established and the public's attention grabbed they would then experiment with less seductive dishes - perhaps Grimsby versus Bolton on 6 February or Leyton Orient's visit to Hartlepool on 9 March. The plan is for six or seven pay-per-view matches in total.

The idea, according to Richard Scudamore, the Football League's new chief executive, is to test the water. "No one knows what the market is for this at the moment. We have to find out what is appropriate with regard to the timing of games and the price to be charged."

Scudamore was keen to stress that the fixtures would be additional to those already due to Sky subscribers, and he noted that viewers should remember that there has never been a golden age of regular live televised matches, but that the whole area is in fact a relatively recent phenomenon.

However it would also be naive not to perceive this as the first step towards viewers having to pay more money, more often, to watch football. Scudamore admitted that the next television contract would be likely to involve a variety of methods and broadcasters. It must be questioned how much demand there is for some of these matches. Already the market may be approaching saturation coverage - tomorrow's game is the 15th live match in 12 days. However, niche television is widely believed to be the future of the industry and it is understandable that the Football League, whose clubs are relatively impoverished compared to those in the Premiership, would look at every avenue of raising both the income and the profile of their clubs.

Scudamore's biggest problem may be retaining a spirit of "mutuality" among the Football League's 72 clubs. The big pay-per-view earners, like Sunderland and Manchester City, may take some persuading to share the revenue they generate. "We need to find a formula for payments which is fair and equitable", Scudamore admitted.

The new chief executive's experience of American sports appears to be behind the suggestion of a salary cap, but it may prove difficult to institute without the anti-trust laws which are present in the United States. David Sheepshanks, who will shortly stand down as the Football League's chairman, said: "It is worth study and debate but as the chairman of Ipswich, I for example would not want to see a salary cap tied to turnover, as that would just preserve the gap between the wealthier clubs and others."

During his time as chairman, Sheepshanks has overseen a steady modernisation of the Football League, which will soon be opening new offices in London and Preston and closing down its isolated former bastion in Lytham St Annes. "Keeping a healthy Football League is vital for the future of the game in England," he insisted. He was opposed to the principle of media companies like Sky taking over major teams like Manchester United, and was fearful that the Office of Fair Trading, in the impending inquiry, would outlaw the current practice of imposed collective bargaining among clubs for TV deals.

"It would be a disaster for the structure of football," he warned. "Collective agreements mean there is something of a level playing field. It would be the final nail in the coffin to the hopes of small clubs like Ipswich overcoming the big clubs."

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable