BT denies promise of free, live football is to blame for hike in line rental

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BT customers have been hit with a nine per cent increase in line rental.

The telecoms giant has denied the price hike is linked to its recent promise of free, live Premier League football coverage to broadband customers.

But the group’s Line Rental Saver Plan, which allows customers a better deal by paying a year in advance, has gone up from £129 to £141 from Saturday.

The company recently won a three-year deal to show 38 Premier League games a season.

In a statement, the company said: “Line Rental Saver continues to offer a generous discount of 23 per cent on the price of our standard line rental, saving customers £44 a year.

“This increase, which is the first for 14 months, does not affect existing Line Rental Saver customers. Customers who take standard line rental from BT will benefit from our price freeze until 2014” it added.

A spokeswoman said there was “no link whatsoever between these price changes and our investment in sports rights”.

BT said last month that it would offer BT Sport free of charge to broadband customers and spent £738m on acquiring the live rights to Premier League games.

A number of big names have also been announced to front the coverage.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has been recruited by BT as a football expert and will be joined by Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Double Champions League winners Owen Hargreaves and Steve McManaman and former England goalkeeper David James have also been signed up as pundits for to its sports channels, which will be called BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN.

Commentators will include former England striker Michael Owen, Ian Darke and Darren Fletcher.

BT channels will also show 69 live Aviva Premiership rugby games per season, plus live football from leagues in Germany, France, Italy and Brazil.

Coverage will be anchored by former BBC man Jake Humphrey, while Clare Balding will present a weekly sports show. The sports channels will launch in August.

BT revealed that its profits had jumped 21 per cent to £833m in the quarter to March 31, while it also added another 136,000 retail broadband customers in the period.