Illegal streaming of football matches has gone up dramatically during the Coronavirus pandemic, but what are the risks and consequences for those involved?
By Craig Humpage
Football Writer, Sporticos
Published on Friday 23 April 2021
The number of football fans using illegal live streams to watch matches from the Premier League and elsewhere is on rise as fans are locked out of stadiums and forced to follow their teams from home. It can seem tempting with coverage via official providers often expensive and the market oversaturated but what are the consequences for those who are caught? Also, what other risks does this way of watching Premier League football present? Malware, viruses, scams - welcome to the murky underbelly of the sports broadcasting landscape.
Premier League illegal streaming is growing
Despite every EPL game being available on TV this season during the pandemic, the league remains an extremely popular destination for people who want to watch matches for free. With the games spread across multiple platforms like Sky, BT Sport and Amazon, the average fan of a top flight team either has to subscribe to all of them or only watch his team when they are shown on the one he has. The "competitive" nature of the UK sports broadcasting market simply leaves fans with even emptier pockets than they had before. Some mavericks decide to go dark and look for a dodgy, illegal live stream but little do they know there are a whole host of risks to doing so.
A survey conducted by Finder.com in December found that 5.8 million people had illegally streamed some form of content last year including football. Despite the problems associated with it, people are still flocking to these websites to see games. Almost 4% of the entire adult population in the UK admitted they watch the Premier League without paying. Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT explained how high these numbers were compared to regular levels: “In May, our scanning team removed more than double the volume of film links and illegal streams [that were live] in April, compared to February”
The research also showed a discrepancy in age with 6% of Gen Z (18-24 year olds) admitting to illegally streaming football matches, a number double that of the older age group of 40-54 year olds. This data doesn't do much to support Florentino Perez's idea that the European Super League was necessary because young people are no longer watching the game. Quite the opposite. They are watching more than ever and many aren't paying a penny. Perhaps a better strategy might be to tailor more to the older demographics who are more likely to have the disposable income to shell out on three different sports packages totalling upwards of a minimum £50 per month.
London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit on the risks
The authorities are quick to advise against using illegal streams to access football matches. They not only stress the legal ramifications but also the other risks involved. Detective Chief Inspector Nick Court of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: “We are urging fans this year to ask themselves if the risk of watching an illegal link is worth it. Not only is it illegal to stream matches without paying for them, but it’s also unreliable and risky. You never know what malware is in the stream you are using and what damage it is doing to your device. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies and legitimate providers can shut illegal sites down during the match, often at a crucial point, to dissuade people from using these sites in the future."
Ever seen the striker running in on goal ready to score a crucial winner in the cup final only for the dodgy stream to cut out and leave you hanging? Any former uni student living off pot noodles who says no is lying. We've all been there. Many youngsters are still there, but as Nick Court, Head of the IPCU points out, it's hardly the best way to enjoy a football match. Not only that but there is the small matter of malware, viruses, pop-ups, identify fraud and other possible consequences. Even if it was legal, would you like to risk being hacked, scammed or your device ruined just to catch the second half of Chelsea vs Crystal Palace?
Illegal Streaming can have serious legal consequences
Many people think that it is the providers who are in hot water if they get caught but this is a misnomer. Kieran Sharp, CEO of FACT explained how viewers of this content can also face severe consequences: “If you are accessing [matches] by avoiding the official provider, whether it’s a re-stream on social media, a piracy site, or using a device, box or stick connected to your TV, this is illegal. Consuming content illegally is a crime which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment and consequently results in a criminal record."
While it is frustrating to see our football played in empty stadiums, and for many die hard fans this has limited their ability to watch their team on a weekly basis, football fans are still encouraged to stick to watching games via official providers. It is understandable that perhaps you might not want Sky Sports, BT Sports and Amazon to watch every single game in the country. You might only want to watch your own team's games like you would in the stadium. Nonetheless, this approach is extremely risky, you never know when you might be caught and fined or worse. You never know what malware could be infecting your device.
Police warn illegal streamers to go with official sites in the future
Police forces are cracking down on illegal streaming. Providers can shut illegal sites. The Intellectual Property Crime Unit can issue fines and even prison sentences. Watching Premier League matches on such dodgy sites can cause you to be hacked or scammed. You may be putting your sensitive information or that of your family at risk. You could fill up your laptop with malware. There are a bunch of reasons not to go down that road.
The sad reality is that stadiums and pubs remain closed for the time being, but they are on the way back.
Watch Europe's biggest leagues via live stream for free
With Bet 365 you can watch games from some of Europe's most prestigious football leagues completely free via their live streaming service on their website or mobile app. Click the video icon next to the match you want. As well as offering great coverage, Bet 365 also provide updated stats so you can keep up with the action every step of the way. Terms and conditions apply.
- Click on this link
- Login to your Bet 365 account (or create one)
- Go to the "Soccer" tab
- Click on one of the big European leagues
You will notice that every game has a video icon next to it. This means they are available for streaming. (Applies to La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and more)
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