Premier League resists calls from Newcastle, Leicester and West Ham to immediately slash pay-per-view price

Tom Morgan
·3-min read
TV Camera.
TV Camera.

The Premier League resisted calls from Newcastle, Leicester and West Ham to immediately slash pay-per-view prices after being told the experiment is currently generating more than £500,000 a match.

In a frank exchange of views at a meeting between top tier shareholders, the clubs acknowledged selling off matches on BT and Sky Sports box office channels had been a disaster for the league's reputation.

However, despite blistering criticism from fans and MPs in recent weeks, the clubs learned that viewing figures have averaged 39,000 per match, marginally above the league's target.

As trailed on Monday by Telegraph Sport, executives waved through plans to continue the scheme at its controversial £14.95 benchmark until the international break. However, the price is all-but-certain to be reduced by £5 from the middle of November when the clubs meet again next week.

Sky and BT have input over pricing, but both are understood to be happy to be led by what the league agrees is fair. The league presented a slideshow to clubs detailing how the first nine pay-per-view games, excluding Brighton’s 1-1 draw with West Brom, had viewing figures ranging from 10,000 to 90,000 viewers.

The figures are in line with what was expected, but nevertheless a number of clubs regard the issue as a PR disaster, according to one league insider. Protests from fans as well as misgivings expressed by Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, have caused major concern for executives,

A Premier League insider said that at Tuesday's meeting, Newcastle United, Leicester City and West Ham United called for an immediate cut in price, but the idea did not gain any further support. Instead, proposals for a £5 reduction from £14.95 to £9.95 are set to be revived next Thursday.

The world's richest league confirmed more than two weeks ago that half of games for the rest of this month and start of next would be sold individually to viewers on Sky Sports and BT Sport's Box Office in an attempt to claw back some of the millions of pounds a week its clubs are losing from playing behind closed doors. Only Leicester City voted against the initiative earlier this month, through their chief executive, Susan Whelan. Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice-chairman, failed to join her despite arguing it placed an unfair burden on supporters.

On Monday, Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, also waded in by admitting charging £14.95 "in the current climate it is not acceptable to any football fan". Ashley called for a "much more accessible" price of "£4.95 per match until Christmas", but that has been dismissed out of hand because the league does not think it would be commercially viable.

Scrapping PPV altogether is also highly unlikely because clubs are keen to avoid any more rebate demands from the broadcasters. A £5 reduction on the scheme is instead expected next week, bringing matches in line with the English Football League's iFollow price bracket.

Brexit was also on the agenda at the shareholders' meeting, but clubs were told discussions with the Football Association over homegrown player quotas were continuing. Clubs are also no closer to announcing a new rescue package offer to the English Football League after the lower tiers voted against accepting the Premier League's £50m loans and grant package because it only applied to Leagues One and Two.