Opinion: Ukraine v England is just the start of an internet revolution (hopefully)

The news that England’s meaningless World Cup qualifier with the Ukraine would be the first ever game to be solely screened over the internet has taken up a lot of column inches. Due to the nature of this very website we felt it remiss for us not to stick our two penneth into the debate.

Since the first ever game to be broadcast only over the internet has involved the Three Lions, many of the arguments surrounding the revolutionary move have been lost in a sea of jingoistic noise.

It is difficult to argue with the fact that all international matches should be free for all, this is apparent even though Fabio Capello’s side have nothing to play for on Saturday. It’s a World Cup year so every touch by an international representing Blighty should be analysed fully by the legions of fans who are praying for World Cup glory in South Africa.

However, even if this match exceeds demand, only one million supporters will be able to see England play in Ukraine, due to a limit imposed by those selling the game. A set of circumstances (including Setanta going bust) meant that the Ukrainian FA took the best offer possible and Kentaro and Perform have undoubtedly taken a gamble here for starting a new trend even if it means that a number of England fans will miss out.

For years now Premier League fans have been watching live streams, from all over the world, since the football authorities have failed to give supporters the necessary options to watch the Beautiful Game. It would be a major surprise if most of you who visit 101gg haven’t at one time or another watched an “illegal” stream to follow your favourite team.

Invariably these feeds are of poor quality with commentary in Chinese or another language that you are unlikely to understand. Just as those that run the game took a long time to work out just what a perfect fit match highlights and goal videos are for the internet, it has taken way too long for live matches to be offered online.

American sports have led the way in embracing the internet. It has been possible for a number of years now to watch NBA and MLB matches online for a fee, direct from the leagues or teams themselves. There is a lot of money to be made in live sport and the demand for online season tickets to follow a Premier League team on the internet throughout a season would be immense.

This simply has to be the future. So far the Premier League have sent our old pals Netresult to police the internet for live streaming whilst, we, the fans, either have to put up with poor quality streaming or sites that don’t work. Ask most supporters of teams in England and as long as the price isn’t too extortionate, they would love to follow football online.

It seems the first lesson to be learnt from the England-Ukraine match is that the fans have to be treated with respect. Many have reacted in outrage because they were asked to pay at all, but there is no doubt that even at the minimum price (5 pounds) most England fans can probably do without watching the match.

Wouldn’t Kentaro and Perform have been better off setting a ludicrously low fee to watch Shevchenko and Tymoschuk battle Terry and Lampard? This would have proved that the model worked and set them up for future matches online. After all, if you are shelling out to watch this match it is more than likely that you also have subscriptions to either Sky and ESPN, or both.

Had this game been a Champions League knockout tie or a crucial top of the table Premier League clash most fans would not hesitate to lay out the cash to watch the match on a feed that works and is reliable.

For those worried that they will miss out on a Steven Gerrard howitzer or a Wayne Rooney special on Saturday, you can be sure there will be a place online to catch the goals (hint, hint). The bottom line is that we are entering a new age; football is almost the perfect sport for the internet, as long as those in power remember not to bleed the fans dry at every opportunity.