This weekend marks a historic moment in football broadcasting. England's World Cup 2010 qualifier against Ukraine will be broadcast live online for the first time.
According to a statement released by the FA, the decision to sell the rights to digital media group Perform rested solely with the Ukrainian Football Association. According to other reports, broadcasters in the UK balked at both the 2m asking price, and the 5.15pm kick-off. The timing means the match clashes with prime time Saturday afternoon TV, including the start of New You've Been Framed! and the first live performance night of The X Factor.
Granted, England has already qualified, but it seems odd that a live World Cup qualifier hasn't been deemed enticing enough for a prime time TV audience. Perhaps it's indicative of a growing trend in watching football online and will prove successful in attracting a new, diverse audience to give food for thought to brands already planning their campaigns around the World Cup.
Perhaps it's also worth bearing in mind that brand England has changed. It had come to be characterised by drama (Gazza's tears at Italia '90) passion (Stuart Pearce at Euro '96), pluckiness (numerous penalty competitions) and the acts of scraping through to a major tournament at the last minute (holding on for a 0-0 draw against Italy to reach France '98) and disastrously bombing out of qualification (Euro 2008).
England under Fabio Capello is more organised, more pragmatic, more clinical and, so far, more successful, breezing through group qualification to reach the upcoming finals. Will this brand engender the fervent fandom typical of 'old England' in the run-up to South Africa 2010? Or will the stalwart support feel more at home with outtakes and X Factor?