5th of October 2009 Author: Johnny Karp
Big World Cup qualifier will be broadcast free via the Internet
Online sportsbook Bet365 has scored something of a high-tech coup, securing the rights to broadcast the Ukraine vs. England World Cup football qualifier on 10 October over the Internet, the first time that a match involving England will be so published and to the exclusion of television.
The sportsbook is to offer its account holders the streamed game at no charge.
Bet365 was offered the deal, along with major UK publishing companies, internet service providers and online betting operators.
The match will also be shown on Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper sites The Times and The Sun, on a pay per view basis.
John Coates, the chief exec at bet365 said that his company streams over 5 000 events live a year, and when good quality matches become available, the management try to secure same.
"The fact that none of the UK television companies have taken the rights makes the broadcast more significant, and we are pleased to be able to make the game available for free for customers with a funded account,' he added.
The broadcast rights were originally secured by the Irish pay-television company Setanta, but this company failed, placing the rights back on the market. Digital sports specialist company Perform was then appointed to handle the rights.
The BBC reported that all previously broadcast England matches have been available on TV, and that there has been criticism that the match will only be available over the internet and not through the more traditional television medium.
The broadcaster said that none of the traditional broadcasters were willing to pay the asking price to screen the game, which kicks off at 1715 BST.
The cost of watching the game was being advertised on Monday in the Daily Express as GBP 4.99 if viewers signed up before midnight on Wednesday. Charges rise to GBP 9.99 for those who subscribe on Thursday and Friday, and GBP 11.99 on Saturday.
Similar prices were advertised on the website of the Daily Telegraph, which promised a "high-quality stream available on Mac and PC".
The Odeon cinema chain will show the game live at 11 venues around the country, including at their flagship cinema at Leicester Square, but the match will not be available in pubs.
Football Association spokesman Adrian Bevington admitted to the BBC: "We would obviously like to see the game broadcast to as many people as possible" but insisted the matter was out of his organisation's hands.
"These are the rights of the Ukrainian FA and the agents they've appointed to sell them," he told BBC Sport. "A traditional TV platform would be ideal to broadcast the game but it's not the case. It's not in our control."
Neither the BBC, ITV, Sky nor Channel Five made a successful bid for the match.
The BBC quoted England fan Mark Perryman, who said the fact the match was available only on the internet was "disastrous and an outrage."
"A World Cup qualifier should be available for everybody on free-to-air TV," Perryman told BBC Sport.
"It seems to me there's a very simple solution - Fifa and Uefa should insist as a condition of entry that all nations sell their games to terrestrial stations, whether its the home or away market."
England defender Rio Ferdinand said he thought the broadcasting of the match marked "a good step forward".
"I read that online advertising has taken over from TV, so that tells you something about where it's going in terms of the digital world," he told BBC Sport. "So I'm sure it'll be the way forward and in the future it'll probably be the reality. I think it's a good way to gauge how many people are interested."
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