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Premier League fans will be "turning to illegal streams in record numbers" after a Pay-Per-View option was introduced at an extortionate rate.
The league and broadcasters are in danger of "killing the game" as they charge fans £15 per match to watch football, a number of supporters' trusts have warned.
Speaking to Daily Star Online, many claimed their fans would either turn to illegal streaming in their droves or wouldn't bother watching the game at all.
The controversial new Pay-Per-View plan, which covers all live games not already covered by Sky or BT subscription packages, will force hard-hit supporters to fork out £14.95 to watch their team play for every game.
This money – which could work out at around £60 a month for many fans – is on top of existing subscription fees for BT and Sky Sports.
Marc Allera, chief exec of BT's Consumer Division, claims the fee only helps cover their costs, and insists any additional revenue is aimed at helping clubs and leagues struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
While Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said on Wednesday argued that the price was "defensible".
He said in a press conference: "We think it's a premium product. It's got the normal Premier League production values pre and post-match presentations."
But a number of supporters' groups from Premier League sides have warned this move, coming as it looks likely that grounds will remain largely empty for most of this season, is unbelievably short-sighted and greedy.
Jonny Gould, director of the Aston Villa Supporters' Trust, told Daily Star Online: "Fans are rebelling against paying £14.95 when many are committed to multiple subscriptions to pay-TV channels already and feel deliberately taken advantage of during lockdown.
"It's like football is taking loyal fans and tipping them upside down to empty their pockets to see how much cash they have left."
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He also claimed the move would backfire, with many fans saying they will simply turn to illegal streaming websites in greater and greater numbers in response to the new fees.
"Illegal streaming platforms are an inevitable part of modern social media," he said.
"While we don't condone it, it's hardly surprising when PPV seems aggressive pricing at this time."
He said many supporters "might have paid a fiver, but this?"
Martin Cloake, co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust, said: "Charging £14.95 a game, especially now, is tone-deaf.
"The fact that no one will admit responsibility for deciding the price speaks volumes."
He said a Twitter poll of Spurs fans had shown many were planning to turn to illegal streaming sites.
"There are a lot of opinions but the pricing hasn't gone down well and I can see why," he added.
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Graham Hyde from the Leeds United Supporters' Trust also slammed the move, warning that it could end up driving fans to breach government guidelines by watching games together in mixed households to save money in the short term and push them towards illegal streaming in the long term.
"Both ultimately will undermine the long term relationship between loyal fans and broadcasters," he said.
He also called for the Football Supporters' Association (FSA) and other Premier League trusts to put pressure on authorities to remove the "outrageous" charge, adding that "this equivalent cost would help us to provide emergency food parcels to families across the city via our Leeds Fans Foodbank".
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Tom Greatrex, chair of the Fulham Supporters' Trust, said he was among many boycotting the new £15 games.
"I'd rather spend that money on going to a non-league game near me," he said.
"In the short term, a lot of people will find illegal streams, and many won't watch at all.
"That means the revenue isn't going to clubs."
He added: "The Premier League is in a lot of trouble as an institution.
"Its reputation is as something that will try and squeeze the most out of struggling fans as possible. There is no appreciation for supporters, and we make the game what it is.
"But for me, this is just typical of how the Premier League behaves.
"They could have used this unique time, during the Covid-19 pandemic, to give something of value to the sport. But the Premier League doesn't take fans into account.
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"In a Twitter poll we did last week, 54% of Fulham fans said they'd find illegal streams.
"We spoke to supporters' groups at Villa and Burnley who had similar results.
"But, more worryingly for the league, a third of respondents said they won't bother watching the game at all.
"People can and will get out of the habit of watching football, and the Premier League should be worried.
"The league must engage with supporters and find an appropriate price for when this new plan is under review in November.
"It's up to individual fans what they do next, but I certainly won't be paying £15 per game.
"I will spend the money on a non-league game near me, and I'd rather do that than support the Premier League's overpriced offer."
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Alex Hurst from the Newcastle United Supporters' Trust also spoke out strongly against the PPV plan, branding it "greedy and opportunistic" at a time of "economic hardship" for many fans.
"In many areas now hit by a second lockdown, watching football is one of the few joys left," he said.
"This move leaves a bad taste in the mouth."
Although he said many Magpies fans would still stump up the cash to watch their team, he added that he believes there will "definitely be a record rise in illegal streaming" as a response.
He also said he "wouldn't blame" fans who turn to streaming games online.
"This is going to hit fans of clubs outside of the top six hardest because they're less likely to be shown on TV anyway," he said.
"For many, we're talking about an extra £150 over the course of a season.
"It shouldn't cost more than £5 to watch a game. A lot of fans will still pay, but I know many who would rather just give that money to charity.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens this weekend, to see how many people actually go ahead and fork up to watch."
- Premier League
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