England star backs streaming

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Online football gets star backing

One of the world's most high-profile players claims watching football online is "the way forward" because of the growth of digital advertising.

This week, it was announced that England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine will be the first in the team's history to be broadcast exclusively online. Irish broadcaster Setanta was due to screen this weekend's match on pay-TV until it collapsed in the summer. As a result, digital sport provider Perform has been brought in to provide coverage.

Rio bets on online advertising

And in an interview with BBC Sport, England defender Rio Ferdinand welcomed the move. "I read that online advertising has taken over from TV, so that tells you something about where it's going," he said. "So I'm sure it'll be the way forward and in the future it'll probably be the reality. I think it's a good way to gauge how many people are interested."

Football fans will be able to stream the match in a pop-up player at the website www.ukrainevengland.com. A staggered payment system has been put in place, so subscribers who sign up by Thursday, October 8th 2009 will pay £4.99 while those who wait till Saturday must pay £11.99. Alternatively, viewers can access the match for free by opening a bet365 account and depositing a minimum of £10.

However, media commentators have warned that paid-for football websites face a stiff challenge from internet piracy. As a result of faster broadband speeds, there has been a sharp rise in the number of UK fans streaming football illegally from European and Asian-based websites.