The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view was far from the ‘premium product’ advertised… a time-pressed pundit and teething problems meant that even Chelsea’s thrilling draw with Southampton wasn’t worth the money
You can only assume, somewhere deep in the sacred ‘ecosystem’ football chiefs insist they are trying to protect, that something had been lost in translation.
Before this, the premiere of Premier League pay-per-view, Richard Masters promised a ‘premium product’ with everything we normally expect from top-flight football on the box. All for the additional price of £14.95.
Funny then, as the clock ticked towards kick-off at Stamford Bridge, that those paying for a part in this new era were treated only to a holding screen and blaring tunes. At least the sign-up process was simple enough. (Funny, that.)
The premiere of Premier League pay-per-view saw Chelsea held to a draw with Southampton
Timo Werner netted twice in a thriller but viewers were treated to rushed analysis and issues
Eventually, though as the teams gathered in the tunnel, coverage did begin. And how it was worth the wait – five minutes, three questions and one time-pressed pundit. ‘Short and sweet’ was how BT described it. Our verdict would begin with ‘s’, too.
The poor pundit was Steve Sidwell – a fine player and a shrewd analyst… but not someone who’s ever screamed ‘Box office.’
BT insist this new model is not designed to line their pockets. Rather they are only covering their costs and trying to help an ailing sport.
Steve Sidwell, a shrewd analyst, was on punditry duty for BT Sport but was pressed for time
Viewers were only shown coverage five minutes before the game with the players in the tunnel
Fair play – they could hardly be accused of wasting viewers’ cash on bloated coverage or excess production. This felt more like BT Knock Off-ice.
Inevitably, then, there were teething problems. Midway through the first half, commentator Ian Darke referenced a pre-match interview we’d not been shown; other viewers didn’t have commentary at all.
Given the backlash at Steve McManaman’s performance behind the mic during the Merseyside derby, some cynics would say that was no bad thing.
And yet, of course, that was the ultimate irony – or insult, depending on your sense of humour: in this new age, the warm-up act was better than the main event.
Commentator Ian Darke referenced an interview not shown on PPV during teething problems
The derby – free to subscribers – was treated to the full works: an hour of build-up, a glitzy studio, a trio of A-list pundits, even an in-house referee who was kept busy unpicking all the theatre at Goodison Park.
In fact, while viewers on BT Sport 1 were given surgical analysis of every controversy, us mugs watching Box Office were treated to the sound of silence.
No wonder one Chelsea supporters’ group called on rivals to join their boycott of this latest show of ‘greed’. At a time when so many are struggling across society, this hardly felt like soothing medicine; ‘ridiculous’ and ‘atrocious’ were among the online reviews.
The only saving grace? Once kick-off did come at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea and Southampton put on some spectacle.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were forced to settle for a point but had helped put on a spectacle
Those fans who did dip into their pockets saw six goals and also some stunning pieces of skill
This draw blended drama, action and no shortage of comedy – not least when Kurt Zouma and Kepa Arrizabalaga played hot potato in the build-up to Che Adams’ equaliser.
Those fans who did dip into their pockets were treated to a first glimpse of Hakim Ziyech in Chelsea blue and the return of Theo Walcott to Southampton. There was also some Timo Werner genius.
Both of his first two Premier League goals featured stunning pieces of skill. Worth the admission fee alone, as they used to say. But worth this, probably not?