Are you a Reading fan living outside of the UK and Ireland? You could be in luck - if Reading don't go up this season.
The EFL has announced a service called 'iFollow', which will begin in August. Covering the Championship, League One and League Two, the digitally-based platform will provide live streaming of all league games for Football League fans who don't live in the UK or Ireland.
Under the new system, supporters can pay £110 for a season-long subscription, bringing them HD-quality coverage of potentially 46 live league matches. However, that won't include any games already picked for international broadcasting.
According to the EFL themselves, this proposal is a popular one:
"Research commissioned by the EFL suggests that there is significant demand for a service like iFollow amongst fans based overseas. A survey of over 1,600 such fans showed that 73% would be very likely or quite likely to subscribe to a live match streaming service and almost half would be happy to pay an annual subscription fee to do so.
"The findings suggest over 55% of the EFL’s fans are located in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where the potential audience for the iFollow platform could reach into the hundreds of thousands."
So, if you're a Loyal Royal who's trying to follow Reading games from afar, you'll soon have more real-time access to matches than domestic supporters.
The club, if it doesn't get promoted this season, will also significantly benefit financially. Drew Barrand, the EFL's Marketing Director, told The Telegraph:
“It is an amazing offer. With the domestic market there is always the delicate balancing act of live attendance against broadcast revenue. For the overseas market this is not an issue.”
“This is the first significant new revenue stream we have introduced in a generation. And we expect it to be a multi-million pound market.”
A bold step forward for the English Football League
Lower division English football is so highly marketable that it's a surprise this kind of development hadn't already happened. Much of the football itself is arguably at the level of top divisions in other countries, and a good number of the 72 sides are famous enough to be well-known to an international fan.
Opening up access to this for not only expats, but also casual football fans in the United States, Australia and elsewhere can only be a positive for the status of the second, third and fourth tiers of the English game.
Extra TV money could also be a much-needed boost to lower league sides who need the cash to become more financially sustainable. Hopefully, this will increase the chance of such teams staying in local ownership, rather than having to sell up to a rich benefactor to keep the lights on.