England 2009: Cyber Space Odyssey

Upon hearing the news I was quite calm. In fact I was quite nonchalant about the whole thing.

Had England done their usual trick of struggling and plodding their way through the group stages, leaving themselves reliant on earning a point from a trip to a little known eastern European state then the game would obviously be of greater importance and the news that England’s World Cup qualifier with Ukraine is only being streamed online would be harder to swallow.

The news has prompted many angry fans to label this decision as an outrage. Of course their vain complaints are a load of bollocks.

Why is this such an outrage? Does it mean that some fat and angry men will have to leave the comfort of their arm chair or bar stool to preach their views on the English national game?

Through the fog of grumbles of discontent, you can occasionally hear the echo of voices claiming that the game should be screened on a TV channel as a matter of national interest.

Fair point I suppose. Of course though it was scheduled to be shown on Setanta, before the Irish sports channel went bust, leaving the channels upcoming events up for grabs to the highest bidder, which included England’s game with Ukraine.

A lot of Setanta’s Premier League coverage was snapped up by American sports channel ESPN. Touchdown. The Ukraine game though failed to attract a bidder, possibly because of the lack of interest in the game now that England are through to the finals in such unprecedented fashion.

In the end the game was sold to digital sport specialist Perform, who for a one off fee have agreed to show the game online.

With technology constantly evolving and changing the way that we view media, I feel that a game being shown live on the internet is an exciting prospect and will hopefully display the benefits of showing matches live on the internet, as an alternative to watching them on the old ogle box.

I’m not alone in my thoughts either. My closest ally on this, Rio Ferdinand, agrees with me, as he told BBC Sport “In the future it’ll probably be the reality. I think it’s a good way to gauge how many people are interested”.

My one concern regarding the whole game-being-streamed-on-the-internet-affair (need to think of a shorter name) is the price, as it’s not cheap for the privilege of watching just the one game.

As advertised in many national newspapers the price is £4.99 if viewers sign up before midnight on Wednesday, but the fee rises to £9.99 if you subscribe on Thursday and Friday, and £11.99 on match day. Ouch. You could have got a months viewing on Setanta for that.

There is clearly a long way to go, before live streaming online can be an affective opposition or alternative to TV, with price and reliability being my main concerns. If these are potential problems are smoothed out then I think it will be a new and exciting way to watch football. Just so long as the big games are on TV too.

If you don’t fancy shelling out twelve quid then you can watch the Under-21 game on Friday for free on the FA’s website. Bargain.

Tags: England, World Cup

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Tom 12 October 2009 at 8:09pm

I enjoyed watching the game at a pub in Hendon, where the inventive landlord had hooked up his laptop to their big screen TVs. Genius. Shame about Rio Ferdiand and Glen Johnson’s performances!

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