The Premier League is to screen four more pay-per-view matches next month at £14.95 each before clubs hold a review of the controversial experiment.
The London derby between West Ham and Fulham, and Leeds’ trip to Crystal Palace, will be among the fixtures fans will have to pay extra to watch on the weekend of 7-8 November.
Showing games on pay per view was a response to the absence of fans from stadiums, allowing supporters a chance to watch their team. The move has been a public relations disaster for the league, however, after adding one more layer of expenditure for fans in the midst of a pandemic.
Estimates of viewing figures suggest the pay-per-view plan has succeeded on its own terms, with matches being watched on average by 40,000 people, or the equivalent of a full stadium. This means the experiment is unlikely to be abandoned, with a review set to concentrate on the price point and a possible reduction to £10 a match.
On Monday the Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, intervened in the debate, calling on the league to “make it much more accessible” for fans by charging £4.95 per match until Christmas. Ashley’s proposal is believed to have been given short shrift, however, with the proposed price deemed too low to cover the costs of broadcast.
At the latest of the league’s virtual shareholder meetings, clubs also received an update on the progress of negotiations over work permits for foreign players post-Brexit.
The league is lobbying government for looser criteria that would help it to offset the loss of unlimited access to European players. It has placed particular emphasis on being able to recruit young talent from across the globe, something the current work permit system limits largely to players who are full internationals. The Football Association, meanwhile, is keen to apply limits on permits so as better to develop young English talent.
The FA chairman, Greg Clarke, has written to the Premier League’s 20 clubs warning that the FA’s position would be the default were an agreement not reached.
It is understood a number of clubs have responded individually to Clarke about his proposals, further contributing to tensions that have risen markedly since the revelation of Project Big Picture.
The deadline for agreeing a new system had been set for the end of this month, but is expected to slip with the outcome of the government’s broader Brexit negotiations still uncertain.
On the issue that remains an absolute priority of all clubs, the return of fans, there was little movement though the Premier League continues to contribute to the regular meetings of the government’s Sports Technology Innovation Group.