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Oct 5, 2009

England supporters angry over internet game

England supporters' spokesman Mark Perryman has blasted the decision to screen England's forthcoming World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on internet platform Kentaro.

• England game to be screened on web

Perryman called on the sport's governing bodies to prevent high-profile matches being forced away from traditional viewing platforms in future.

''I find it outrageous. FIFA and UEFA should make it a condition of entry to World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns that games must be sold only free-to-air, both to the home market and the away market,'' he said. ''Where England fans are being sold short is not in this instance by their own FA, but by foreign FAs selling the game to the highest bidder, and in this instance it's an internet outfit.

''Arguably Ukraine away was the second-toughest of the away games of the campaign and they certainly didn't expect us to beat Croatia 5-1 in the preceding game and go through automatically. At 5.15 on a Saturday night, most of the England fans I know will not want to be sitting in front of a computer, even for an England game.

''A computer screen isn't really something you can sit around on the sofa with your family and mates, so I think the viewing figures are going to be low.''

While the presentation of the match promises to be professionally handled, Perryman warned that the increasing migration of sports to pay-TV and satellite platforms had damaged viewing figures, and fears the impact of extending that migration to the internet.

''There's certain businessmen concerned with world football who want us to pay for every game we can watch,'' he said. ''There are lots of fans who don't want that to be the future.

''Every single sport that is transferred to pay-per-view or satellite, or this kind of development, narrows the audience, and that cannot be good for the future of the game.''

While taking the match away from the traditional viewing platforms has been met with dismay by some, Kentaro managing director Peter Silverstone insists the deal represents a ''natural progression'' for the industry.

''The distinction between media is becoming ever-increasingly blurred, and your television screen is becoming your internet screen as well,'' Silverstone told BBC Radio 5 Live. ''Everyone in the UK is watching iPlayer, YouTube etc, we are watching an inordinate amount of content on the internet - 92% of the UK public have a broadband connection over two megabytes.

''People are also watching the television while being on the internet, Twittering etc, so we see this as a natural progression. 'I think in six months' time to a year, this conversation, this hype, will be moot, because we are ever-increasingly watching content on the internet, and an England match may be the first but it won't be the last.''

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