Chelsea TV to show England U-21 game

Wednesday, October 7 2009,

Chelsea TV has secured rights to broadcast live coverage of England's Under-21 Championship qualifier against Macedonia this Friday.

Available on Tiscali and Sky for a monthly subscription fee of 5.87, the channel will exclusively screen the match from Coventry's Ricoh Arena after no rival broadcaster picked up the rights.

This development follows news that England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine will be broadcast exclusively online via pay-per-view for the first time ever.

Fans will have to pay up to 11.99 to watch the game this Saturday on a dedicated website, along with selected third-party sites and participating cinemas. The relative success or failure of this approach could have a major impact on the way that national sports coverage is broadcast in the future.

However, the move has already been criticised by fan groups who believe that all England World Cup qualifiers should be available on free-to-air television.

Football Supporters' Federation director of policy Steven Powell told The Times: "The government should ensure that all national team games are available for those who can't afford subscriptions or pay-per-view."

A panel of experts, led by former FA executive director David Davies, will meet this week to discuss the ways in which England's World Cup qualifying matches are broadcast in the future.

For the first time since 1998, the government has tasked the panel with reviewing the list of sporting events that are protected for broadcast on free-to-air television.

Back in July, the BBC called for all home nation qualifiers for the World Cup and European Championship to be included on the list of protected events.

BBC chief operating officer Dominic Coles said: "In an increasingly fragmented society, the ability to broadcast, freely available to all, those major events that can unite communities and deliver social value cannot be underestimated.

"Imagine the London Olympics, or perhaps a 2018 World Cup hosted in England, not being universally available for the whole UK to enjoy irrespective of individual financial circumstance."

The inclusion of all home nation qualifiers on the list would also factor in away games, in which foreign rights agencies are often eager to earn as much TV revenue as possible from the coverage.

Rights to the England's match against Ukraine were previously owned by collapsed firm Setanta, but no other broadcaster showed any interest in the game because England have already qualified for the tournament next year in South Africa.

Coventry University professor of sport business strategy and management Simon Chadwick said that the internet-exclusive coverage of the game could usher in a new regime for sports broadcasting.

"Saturday's game may well be the start of a new era in broadcasting that many of us may never be happy to accept," he told The Times.

The review panel will submit its findings to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at the end of this month before ministers decide if any changes to legislation are required.