Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A real switch off

An ex-colleague of mine has been all over the media over the past 48 hours. When I knew Mark Perryman he was in magazine marketing and political journalism. Then he went on to co-found "the sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction" Philosophy Football, and over the years he's spent some considerable time involved with England fans' groups. In that capacity he was interviewed by the BBC over the controversial pay-per-view Internet-only streaming of England's World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine on Saturday.

He's rightly described this as "a disaster and a disgrace" in terms of grassroots accessibility to the game -- especially for older people, those on low incomes and those without high-quality broadband... let alone peole who might want to watch socially, rather than crouched over a laptop. Both technologically and demographically, the prospect of the likes of 'Perform' being able to narrow-cast football for profit ahead of people is a grim one. That's true even for those of us who support another nation (in my case, Scotland). 'Perform' certainly wouldn't be getting my money, even if it was a match I wanted to see. As Mark says: "Fifa and Uefa should insist as a condition of entry [to international competitions] that all nations sell their games to terrestrial stations, whether home or away."

Meanwhile, thankfully, the Republic of Ireland's titanic World Cup qualifying tussle with Italy, showing on Sky Sports 2 at 7.30pm, will at least be viewable in pubs. As for Scotland, ironically the Scottish Football Association has had to shelve plans to transmit the Kirin Challenge Cup match with Japan on the Internet due to technological difficulties. The idea was to broadcast the game in Yokohama (also on Saturday 10 October) on the official SFA website. The intention had been to provide the service free to Scottish supporters, in contrast to the deal struck by the Ukrainian FA for the England game.

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