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Virgin Media survey finds supporters struggle to afford football on TV

According to a new survey commissioned by Virgin Media, 83 per cent of football fans claim that the prices being charged by broadcasters for live coverage of the beautiful game is preventing them from subscribing.

Following Virgin Media’s recent attempt to halt the Premier League’s auction for broadcast rights, which was turned down by media regulator Ofcom, the company tasked Kantar Media with providing a more detailed break-down of fans’ opinions on the state of the televised football in the UK.

According to findings, the lion’s share of us are unsurprisingly unimpressed with the prices being charged and the unsubstantial coverage provided.

The survey found that 37 per cent of fans polled subscribe to both Sky Sports and BT Sports, as they don’t see them as interchangeable. A worrying 33 per cent stated that they have had trouble paying for their monthly subscription, with 64 per cent admitting that they cut back on other goods and services in order to afford their weekly dose of footy.

Despite people paying for both BT and Sky’s footy offerings, 41 per cent of fans don’t think there are enough games broadcast for their outlay, while 48 per cent stated in no uncertain terms that they want to see every game that their team plays. Not much to ask really, considering the costs involved, and the relative ease of watching Premiership football in other countries.

The latest round of auctions for EPL broadcast rights brought in £5.1 billion pounds for the Premier League, 71 per cent more than last time, and BT and Sky – who snapped up the rights – are expected to push their own rates up to cover the monumental outlay, squeezing struggling supporters even harder.

Despite Sky raising the price of a Sky Sports subscription by 10 per cent in 2014, it’s planning yet another cost hike, which will come into effect on June 1st 2015. If analysts at industry experts Enders are accurate, the cost of Sky Sports could raise by as much as £10 a month if the company looks to pay for the full cost of the latest broadcast rights, which in return would only see an extra 10 games broadcast every season.

BT’s own ‘football tax’, which was roundly condemned, saw the company’s home phone and broadband costs rise by 6.5 per cent to cover the costs of football coverage. The service provider is expected to raise costs further to cover its own outlay, by around £4 a month.

The rising profile of the Premier League has also seen ticket prices for games shoot up in recent years. Fans have been increasingly disillusioned by the discriminating costs associated with top-flight football in the UK, and this latest survey shows that fans are now not being catered for in either respect.

The 3pm “blackout”, which was brought in due to fear that fans would stay at home rather than go to the match, is still in full effect too, meaning that if fans were to fork out more money to watch their beloved team play, they wouldn’t even be able to watch matches which kick-off between 2:45 and 5:15 on a Saturday – despite the fact that people from other countries can.

From next season, even Champions League and Europa League football is moving off terrestrial television and on to BT Sports, leaving supporters who can’t afford a subscription with only Match of the Day – or a hooky Chinese internet feed – to sate their hunger for the game.

Premier League football in the UK is something which more and more dedicated fans can no longer afford to honestly follow. Premier League bosses still crack down on illegal streams with an iron fist, but offer hard-working supporters no other way of watching the teams they love if they can’t afford the sky-high prices.

Here’s hoping the Armani suit-wearing magnates can generate a bit of noise and atmosphere from their corporate boxes – because soon they’re going to be all that’s left.

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