England's World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on Saturday will make history as the first England match to be shown exclusively online but the decision has upset supporters' groups, who want legislation to keep games on traditional viewing platforms.
The rights to the game were sold by the Ukraine FA to a Swiss agency, Kentaro, who initially sold them on to Setanta, who went into administration over the summer. Since England qualified for the World Cup, Kentaro struggled to find a conventional UK broadcaster to meet the Ukraine FA's asking price.
Instead, Kentaro appointed the digital sport specialist, Perform, to market and stream the match online, on a pay-per-view basis. Fans can watch for £4.99 if they order by tomorrow night. The price will rise as the game nears. The match will also be screened in Odeon cinemas.
England Supporters' Mark Perryman said: "I find it outrageous. Fifa and Uefa should make it a condition of entry to World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns that games must be sold only free-to-air, both to the home and away markets."
Perryman believes this format will dissuade fans from watching. "At 5.15pm on a Saturday night, most of the England fans I know will not want to be sitting in front of a computer," he said. "A computer screen isn't really something you can sit around on the sofa, so I think the viewing figures are going to be low."
The FA had no authority over the decision to broadcast on the internet. "These are the rights of the Ukrainian FA and agents they've appointed to sell them," said a spokesman. "A traditional TV platform would be ideal but it's not the case. It's not in our control."
Perform's coverage will be fronted by James Richardson, via ukrainevengland.com, a dedicated site, and the guest pundit will be the former England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, with David Pleat summarising.
Kentaro's managing director, Peter Silverstone, said: "The distinction between media is becoming increasingly blurred, and your television screen is becoming your internet screen as well."
Ukraine v England: How to watch
Visit www.ukrainevengland.com/independent and watch live online. Prices start from £4.99 and will increase to £11.99 on the day of the game. Only 1 million people will be able to register.
Bet 365, the online bookmaker is offering the live stream to people who sign up to their site and deposit £5 in their account.
Odeon cinemas will also be showing the game at selected locations across the country. Prices vary from £6 in Birmingham to £12 at London's Leicester Square.Reuse content