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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions