Non-League football fans could get to watch live matches online as Essex Senior League looks to show cup ties on pay-per-view
Stansted and Sawbridgeworth Town's proposed meeting in the Len Cordell Memorial Cup could be beamed around the world if plans to live stream matches are finalised.
Essex Senior League sides were dealt a blow after the FA published a guidance document stating the return of non-elite football on March 29 would not coincide with spectators being allowed inside grounds.
But, with matches needing to be played behind closed doors until May 17 at the earliest, the league is looking into the possibility of going ahead with cup fixtures using an online-based pay-per-view service.
It could mean matches involving Stansted, Sawbo, Bishop's Stortford's tenants Enfield and Saffron Walden Town in Group One of the Len Cordell Memorial Cup being shown for football fans everywhere to enjoy via the internet.
The league is also planning on running the Len Cordell Memorial Trophy for reserve teams alongside the tournament for Premier Division sides.
"The recent FA guidance document regarding the restart of football brought some disappointing news – no spectators and no secondary income from food and bar sales," said an ESL spokesperson. "Vital at all levels of the game, but particularly at step five, where revenue is largely generated by spectators who pay to watch football and also spend on programmes, food and drink whilst at the game.
"The league is looking towards live streaming matches on a pay-per-view basis to help generate funds for clubs to help offset the associated costs of playing matches at step five. In a stadium environment with three match officials, clubs advise that the average cost to them for each game is around £300.
"There is no better time to extend ourselves to bring football back to the fans – even if it has to be temporarily different.
"With few NLS [National League System] leagues hosting competitions and spectators not allowed, for mental health reasons alone we need to make a success of live streaming matches in the interim.
"Bringing football back in a controlled manner, in compliance with the Government's roadmap, may mean that the finals towards the end of May might even be allowed to be attended by spectators."
The league is now looking for people to sponsor the live streamed matches. It is believed it will cost £450 to stream one fixture.
It wants clubs, fans and volunteers to spread the word to help get the scheme off the ground and to make it a success.
"We are seeking sponsors for matches. Adverts and logos will be able to be viewed before, during and after the live stream fixture," said the spokesperson.
"If the league can gain sponsors for individual fixtures or a collective group of fixtures, then having the opportunity to utilise pay per view - at a reasonable sum to be advised in due course, but likely to be £5 or under - means we'll be able to financially support our clubs at a time when sport is having to adapt to the challenges presented by coronavirus."
If you are interested in sponsoring one of the live streamed matches, email honorary league secretary Michelle Dorling at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.