Aston Villa on box office, donating to food banks and fans returning to Villa Park

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Villa Park without supporters

You would have paid a whopping £60 to watch Aston Villa’s last 360 minutes of football – including two wins and two loses, Villa fans were paying £8.50 per goal viewing over the last four Premier League games.

Villa and West Brom fans were hit hardest with the prospect of paying to watch live football matches on Sky Sports and BT Sport’s Box Office platforms while games continue to be played behind closed doors.

In fact, no team in the league had been screened on a Box Office platform more than Villa, with games costing £14.95. Wins at Leicester and Arsenal might’ve been worth the money, but loses to Leeds and Southampton not so much.

The pay-per-view model has since been scrapped after growing unrest for clubs and supporters groups about PPV, which was introduced for the games following the October international break.

The Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters said the £14.95 price was “defensible” last month, while BT also defended it, saying it was only covering its costs in screening the matches.

With fans unable to return to stadiums until the new calendar year or even the foreseeable future for that matter, the PPV model might well return. But for the meantime discussions have taken place surrounding the plans for upcoming televised games.

At a Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing, Masters said: ”We needed to come up with a different commercial solution.”

“We took the decision to move to pay-per-view, now we’re reviewing that decision.

During Project Restart, all the remaining 92 games of the 2019-20 season were screened by the Premier League’s domestic broadcast partners, Sky, BT, Amazon Prime and the BBC for free, if you held a channel subscription.

The upcoming Christmas calendar for football is similarly busy with a total of eight rounds of fixtures between November 21 and the end of the year plus 10 further games scheduled for January 2.

In a recent statement, the Premier League confirmed that “the agreement will be reviewed in the new year following consultation with clubs and broadcast partners.

“These plans have been made with the cooperation of our broadcast partners, working with us to deliver these additional matches while stadiums are missing the supporters who are such an integral part of the game.

“The Premier League and our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible.”

Villa fans won’t have to worry about forking out for festive football after initially criticising the PPV model. Instead, supporters opted to give their money to charitable causes such as food banks.

Charity over pay-per-view

Including Villa fans, football supporters from all 20 Premier League clubs have pledged thousands of pounds in the Charity not PPV campaign to donate to food banks and other charities in defiance of the charges proposed by Premier League officials.

The Charity Not PPV campaign urged fans to donate to those in need rather than paying £14.95 to watch the football after fans claimed that the pay-per-view fee to watch matches is “taking away a sense of community.”

On top of expensive TV subscription costs and during the time of a global pandemic and recession, supporters have rallied together to offer their support to hospices and other organisations helping the vulnerable.

Kerry Lenihan, a Villa fan and one of the main organisers of the campaign, told the Big Issue: “At a time when the country is already on its knees, people need something to look forward to.

“Being told that they’ve got to pay again for something they’re already paying for is not the right way to go about it. Football should be about bringing people together at tough times, adding an extra pay barrier to that is taking away a sense of community.”

Lenihan heads Aston Villa’s local foodbank in Nechells. The charity provides emergency food parcels using red vouchers issued by our referral partners at three distribution centres. They also provide signposting support to try and help clients find long term solutions to food poverty issues.

Around 3,500 people who were in crisis found help from the bank during April 2019 – April 2020, with emergency food supplies, apportioned. The Aston & Nechells Foodbank is a project founded by local churches and community groups, working together towards stopping hunger in our local areas of Aston, Nechells and Washwood Heath.

After opening in November 2011, the charity has since handed out in excess of 100 tonnes of food, all of it donated from local causes. The charity that many Villa fans donated to in opposition of the Premier League’s PPV prices is an entirely voluntary run foodbank having over 100 regular volunteers working in warehouses and helping with local and national supermarket collections.

Foodbank volunteers come from across our many different multi-ethnic communities aged between 18 and 80 and the Aston & Nechells team are always seeking new help to help 1 in 5 of the UK population who live below the poverty line.

The Aston & Nechells Foodbank is part of The Trussell Trust’s network of 428 foodbanks, working to tackle food poverty and hunger in our local communities, as well as across the UK after being founded in 2004.

Aston & Nechells Foodbanks

Last year, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,900,122 three-day emergency food supplies and support to UK people in crisis. Of these, 720,504 went to children.

Newcastle United were also a driving force behind the Charity Not PPV campaign.

Stuart Latimer, from NUFC Fans Food Bank, credits the idea to Newcastle fan account Toon Polls.

He said: “It has snowballed beyond our wildest dreams. Spurs fans gave £77,000 to their food bank yesterday, it shows the generosity of the people in a hard time.”

Latimer added that he hoped it would be enough to force the Premier League to scrap the new charges.

He added: “The fans have spoken, they’ve said enough is enough. People already pay for subscriptions on Sky, BT, Amazon, and season tickets. This is just a step too far.

“Watching football was one of the things people could do during the lockdown, that’s why it is so wrong for the Premier League to bring this new charge in. It was one of the few distractions that allowed people to relax and forget about the world for a while.”

Football and charity have been overlapping in other quarters as well during the Coronavirus pandemic, with MBE Marcus Rashford continuing to front a children’s poverty crisis.

Many small businesses took it upon themselves to help feed children over the October half term following Rashford’s appeals to come together as a community.

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