End of an era as England qualifier moves online

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The Independent Football

This weekend's England football international will be broadcast exclusively live over the internet for the first time, it emerged today.

Media group Perform is to stream Saturday's away clash against Ukraine on a pay-per-view basis on newspaper websites, including The Independent, which will screen the game at www.ukrainevengland.com/independent

The move follows the collapse of pay-TV platform Setanta earlier this year, which had been due to broadcast the World Cup qualifier.

International football agency Kentaro had sold the broadcast rights of the fixture to Setanta, and after the collapse failed to agree rights offers with any of the more traditional broadcasters such as BBC, ITV and Five.

Perform's executive chairman, Andrew Croker told the BBC: "The world is changing...this is a classic example of it.

"It's exciting. Anyone who wants to come on a journey with us should sign up - they will enjoy it."

The cost of watching the game was being advertised today on one national newspaper as £4.99, if viewers "signed up early".

Peter Silverstone, managing director of Kentaro, told the BBC that a maximum of one million subscribers would be taken for the match.

This is the "safe number to stop at to ensure the optimal broadcast", he said.

Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will be part of the studio line-up, he added, with a "top commentary team".

Mr Silverstone said: "You will watch as you would any other streaming on the internet, like YouTube or the BBC iPlayer - there will be a pop-up player that will show the match in a very good quality stream.

"We have a huge marketing effort behind us with the various newspaper groups that will promote the match on their websites.

"Commercially this will work and genuinely offers an exciting opportunity for us. We wouldn't embark on this project if we didn't feel it had strategic long-term value, this isn't a one-off shot."

Perform said it streams more than 15,000 events a year, with millions of site users a month.

England have already qualified for the 2010 World Cup, winning all eight of their group matches.

Football Association spokesman Adrian Bevington told the broadcaster that his organisation "would obviously like to see the game broadcast to as many people as possible".

"These are the rights of the Ukrainian FA and the agents they've appointed to sell them," he said.

"A traditional TV platform would be ideal to broadcast the game but it's not the case. It's not in our control."