A new survey published today suggests that up to five million people may have accessed football matches illegally in the UK at some point in their life. While that headline figure is high, it’s the confusion among many consumers that seems the greatest concern for outfits like the Premier League.
Football, or soccer as it’s more commonly known in the US, is the most popular spectator sport in the UK. As a result, millions watch matches every week, both legally and illegally.
The latter method of consumption is a big thorn in the side of organizations such as the Premier League, which has been working hard to stamp out piracy in all its forms, often via aggressive enforcement. However, a new survey published today suggests more education is also needed.
Commissioned by betting tips service OLBG and carried out by market research company OnePoll in September, the survey looks at some of the habits of 1,000 football fan respondents.
The survey begins by noting that 16.6% of respondents usually attend live games, closely followed by 14.3% who “usually” watch in the pub. However, the largest audience (46.9%) are those who regularly watch matches live at home.
This, of course, opens up the opportunity for piracy. The report states that 22.4% of football fans surveyed admitted to knowingly using “unofficial streams” at some time in the past, a figure that is extrapolated in the report to “over five million UK football fans” admitting to illegal streaming.
Asking whether fans had watched a pirated stream in the past 12 months (or even “usually”) would have arguably been a little more useful, in order not to inflate the figures beyond current consumption habits. There will be fans in those millions who, in varying combinations, attend matches, watch legally in the pub, and on occasion, illegally at home too.
Nevertheless, the report provides some interesting data on the knowledge of those surveyed when it comes to illegal and legal consumption.
For example, just over 61% of respondents acknowledged that accessing streams from unofficial providers is illegal, meaning that almost 40% believe that watching matches from third-party sources is absolutely fine. That’s a pretty big problem for the Premier League and other broadcasters when four out of ten fans can’t tell the difference between a legal and illegal provider.
Strangely, the figure drops slightly when respondents were asked about “Kodi-style” devices. Just 49% said that these boxes provide content illegally, meaning around half believe they offer football matches legally. Given the drive to stamp out the illegal use of these devices globally, this is also an eye-opener.
Moving to other methods of access, the figures are a little bit more predictable. Just under 29% felt that social media streams (Facebook Live etc) are illegal, so that may raise the possibility that respondents associated the perceived legitimacy of the platform with legality.
Password sharing is also tackled in the survey, with 32.5% of respondents stating that they believe that using someone else’s login to access football matches is illegal. If that happens outside the subscriber’s household it might constitute a terms-of-service breach but actual illegality is open to question, account stealing aside.
All that being said, according to the survey, just 11% have actually used a family member’s login to watch football during the past 12 months, a figure that drops to 9.8% when borrowing from a friend.
In common with the debate around password sharing on Netflix and other platforms, this issue is likely to receive greater attention in the future but how it will be tackled by providers is far from clear. At least at the moment, the problem seems limited.
Finally, and just returning to the headline “five million football pirates in the UK”, it’s worth noting that this refers to people who have “EVER” used an unofficial stream to watch football, so it’s not necessarily five million fans who don’t ever part with a penny.
As far as we could see, no question in the report tried to determine what percentage of fans currently freeload all of the time, which is undoubtedly the biggest problem for the Premier League.
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