The BBC today released a survey that showed more than a third of Premier League football fans say they regularly watch matches online illegally.
It doesn’t exactly take Poirot to have noticed this in recent years, but the poll showed a trend of younger viewers watching games via unofficial means, while the Premier League currently wades through its seemingly bottomless pit of money.
The latest round of Premier League TV rights were sold for a whopping £5.1billion in 2015, but since then the number of ‘cable cutters’ has increased, as younger fans find easier ways to watch games from around the world.
But how bad is the problem? Where are the Premier League and other rights holders going wrong? And why do football fans risk it on a regular basis?
We asked a panel of football fans to explain why they do, or do not, watch streams illegally.
We’ve kept the names anonymous, because, well, snitches get stitches.
“My main issue is the 3pm Saturday kick-offs. It’s an absolute outrage that in the country where the games are being played we still have this archaic rule of a blackout on Saturday afternoon.
“Say my team is a lower Premier League club who often play at that time, why should I pay for a service I won’t use when I can find a stream of it online?”
“Price is 100% the reason that drives me to watch football on streams. I first got into it at university as a poor student but as the price of watching football became more and more expensive so was a luxury that was the first to go when looking at budgets.
“I’ve dipped in and out of paying for sports channels, but opting in tended to be when I’ve been in shared houses so the bills were split.
“I would happily go back to paying if they made it cheaper, and I’m sure a lot of other people in my position would.”
“Living in the UK, it’s hard to find any legal way of watching the games that I want to watch back home.
“How else am I going to find a stream of Crotone versus Pescara? It’s just much more convenient, I know which sites will show it, which is why I do it.”
“I’ve had Sky Sports for several years now and didn’t need to use streams too much – apart from the odd occasion with mates or when one of my Sky Go devices wasn’t around.
“But since BT has become a big player in the televised football market it’s become basically impossible to catch all the football you want without spending unreal amounts on TV packages or going to the pub on a basis even more regular than my liver can take.
“It means Champions League games in particular see me turning to a stream.
“I’m happy to pay for a certain degree of live sport on TV – but the prices regularly rocket and the amount of money you end up spending does not tally with the product.
“I have to have Sky really, otherwise I miss the cricket and various other live sport but getting BT as well is just too pricey.”
“I get BT Sport through my broadband anyway, which has been decent in recent years, but the price of Sky is just eye-watering.
“I’m not a fan of a Premier League team as well, so I don’t have a great affinity with any club, so I just pick and choose which Premier League games I’d want to watch through streams.
“I used to watch streams illegally, but recently stopped because I read somewhere that authorities intensified their work on that.
“Also illegal streams are usually highly unsatisfying to watch because of their poor quality. Instead I’ve started buying day passes from Sky.
“However, generally I think they’re too expensive. Personally I wouldn’t sign a year contract because of the price and also because they won’t show you all the games.
“For that you’d have to buy BT and Sky, which is ridiculous. A Sky day pass for £6.99 is kind of OK though, given it’s the price for a pint and a bag of peanuts you’d buy if you went to the pub.”
“We’ve got hardly any access to the games we actually want to watch each season, and so you have to watch the games provided for you by the rights holders.
“What good is that when I just want to watch my team play? I mean, Burnley v West Brom on a Sunday afternoon, really?
“I get they have to share out the televised matches, but if they want people to start paying for their services I’d choose an opt-in type of thing, where you can buy a pass for all of one team’s games.”
“I stream games if they’re on BT Sport, or I want to watch two games at once, as I only have Sky. I pay for Sky Sports but even that is getting stupidly expensive.
“Dividing football up into packages can only be bad for the consumer, as my bill if I wanted to watch all Premier League games would be ridiculous.
“I wouldn’t mind paying a premium price, but for that I expect to get full access to a product (ie the Premier League) like in the good old days.”
“My internet, which is provided by one of the rights holders, is so slow where I live that I’ve found I can watch games illegally through streams, but not on the company’s actual on demand streaming service.
“I pay for their services, but if I can’t get to the TV, of course I’ll go online. I don’t feel too bad as I’m actually paying for a service, but the companies must provide a better stream service.”
“Having to sign a year long contract with the companies is ludicrous when you live in a city like London, and not sure when you might move out.
“Also, I’ve found better streams online than the services themselves provide online.”
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