Football: Oxford to launch League pay-per-view

OXFORD'S FIXTURE with Sunderland at the Manor Ground on 27 February will make football history when it becomes the first competitive Football League game in this country to be screened via pay-per-view.

The League yesterday announced details surrounding their pay-per-view experiment which they hope will lead to six matches broadcast by the end of the season.

Manchester City's trip to Colchester on 20 March has also been earmarked for live coverage, with both matches scheduled for a 6pm kick-off and broadcast by Sky Box Office.

The Football League are in discussion with their member clubs in a bid to show up to four more live games, with each available to Sky subscribers for a one-off fee of pounds 7.95.

Sky's coverage already takes in 60 matches plus the play-offs, and the League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, said: "It has long been known that football has been looking at the opportunities offered by pay-per- game broadcasting.

"We feel the time is right to show a limited number of games and Sky have helped us to do this. Television and football are constantly evolving and we have to be responsible.

"These matches will bring in extra revenue for the clubs and the League at a time when it is very much needed, and fans who cannot get a ticket or travel to a game will welcome the chance to see them. However, both the Football League and Sky Television want to keep the correct balance of coverage and to ensure that existing broadcast arrangements are unaffected."

It is believed the financial split will see Sky take half of the subscribed fee, with the rest then divided three ways between the home team, away side and the Football League.

The League believes pay-per-view will provide them with much-needed leverage when it comes to negotiating a new television deal. Spokesman Chris Hull said: "This is an opportunity for us to gather information and research into the pay-per-view concept. This is not a money-making exercise.

"There's also an element of customer care involved as we will be targeting matches which will quite clearly have a full capacity, with many fans unable to attend. The main thing is that pay-per-view will be beneficial to the Football League come the next round of TV deal negotiations, whenever they will be.

"We will be in possession of more details regarding pay-per-view, which will form a significant part of broadcasting in the 21st century."

The Sky Sports managing director, Vic Wakeling, underlined the commitment to their existing customers will not alter, despite the introduction of pay-per-view.

He said: "This will not affect our existing live coverage of Sky Sports in any way. During this experiment, Sky Box Office will simply offer extra live matches, concentrating on games which look sure to be sell-outs.

"Sky Sports will continue to show 60 live games from across the divisions of the Nationwide Football League, plus all three play-off finals live."

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