Today, however, football faces a threat like never before. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the sport into chaos, with schedules massively disrupted and leagues thrown into turmoil.
In an effort to return to some kind of normality the new Premier League season is set to start on September 12. However, with social-distancing restrictions still in place, fans will be banned from stadiums for the foreseeable future.
In the 21st century, the logical solution would be to air all Premier League matches on TV or via the Internet for UK fans to enjoy. At it stands, however, 160 of the planned 380 top-tier games will not be shown in the UK, leaving fans frustrated that they’re being left behind. And there are good reasons for that upset.
If fans want to watch the limited matches that are available, they’ll have to subscribe to several services – Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime – at a cost of around £100 per month. If they want the rest, there’s no legal option so combined with the price and lack of choice, some fans turn to pirate IPTV providers instead. That’s something the Premier League is working to prevent.
Premier League Obtains a New Blocking Order
Over the past several years, the Premier League has obtained blocking orders from the High Court, which give it permission to compel ISPs to block pirate streaming services. The last order, which aimed to cover the 2019/2020 season, ran out on July 27, 2020.
However, ISP Virgin Media’s portal now reports that new permission has been granted by the High Court via a “sealed order”, which will cover the 2020/2021 season.
Virgin will be required to block “Various Target Servers notified to Virgin Media by FAPL or its appointed agent for the duration of the FAPL 2020/2021 competition season.” While yet to publicly report the new order, all other major ISPs will be required to follow suit.
We’ve previously covered how these blocking orders work from a technical perspective. Their sole aim is to prevent people from watching matches via illegal providers but the plans for limited legal airings in the UK under pandemic conditions places these efforts into a whole new light.
UK Fans Are Being Backed Into a Corner
With significantly higher prices, a limited legal offering, and a stadium ban in full effect, UK fans are not only being backed into a corner, on the world stage they’re being treated as second-class supporters of their own sport.
All Premier League matches are available to watch live in other countries and at vastly cheaper prices. Citizens of the US, for example, will be able to use NBC channels and streaming services to watch all 380 matches at a vastly reduced price.
Other international services showing matches unavailable in the UK include DAZN, Optus Sport, QQ Sports, Sport TV1, and fuboTV, but it is impractical and/or impossible for UK fans to access them all. Legally that is.
Pirate IPTV Providers Are The Ultimate One-Stop-Shop
By their very description, it’s clear that pirate IPTV providers are illegal. That aside, what they do very effectively is cut through all the red tape. Football fans are not only greeted with the live matches offered by Sky and BT Sport, but also all of the matches offered by NBC and, where necessary, any and/or all of those shown by the other legal providers mentioned above.
While price is clearly a huge factor for UK fans, freedom to choose which matches to watch live is a massive draw too. The Premier League knows this, the government knows this, as does the Football Supporters’ Association, which is campaigning for all games to be shown live in the UK.
“We all want to get back to games when it’s safe to do so,” said FSA Chief executive Kevin Miles in comments to the BBC this week.
“But it’s not in anyone’s interests to have a situation where fans excluded from grounds for reasons of health or Covid-related capacity reductions feel they have no option but to resort to illegal pirate broadcast schemes.”
Comments from an IPTV Insider
Last evening TorrentFreak spoke with someone with inside knowledge of IPTV providers and he agreed that the new season will be covered in depth by pirate suppliers.
“All the games will be available through different providers like the ones you mentioned and many more, and will almost definitely increase the amount of people using illicit options. It’s almost like [the Premier League] are trying to make more people use illicit options,” he said, demanding anonymity.
“Illegal IPTV providers will use the legitimate sites to take the streams and redistribute them either via the original source URL or they will simply use HDMI encoders to do so. This is nothing new and in effect the illegitimate providers will continue most likely un-affected in obtaining the content.
“We cannot forget however that many people who watch the Premier League illicitly actually have a legit subscription and only use these services to watch the content that they are not able to watch legitimately,” he added.
What Next and Will the Premier League Change Its Position?
At the moment, the Premier League has declined to comment but it does have a shareholders’ meeting today so it’s at least possible that something positive may come from that. Our IPTV insider is less optimistic, since he believes that any decisions made will be in the interests of the Premier League, not in the interests of fans. A glaring and persistent error, he says.
Whatever the outcome, at some point in the future the Premier League and indeed all providers of live sporting content will have to realize that if they are underserving supporters, someone else will come along and exploit that service gap. Blocking and pirate supplier crackdowns have a limited effect so it seems logical that in order to defeat them holistically, the consumer has to be played onside.
And that, as always, means putting all content into a convenient package and making that available to fans at a reasonable price. Until then, pirate suppliers have all the oxygen they need to keep taking a piece of the pie, not to mention a not insignificant slice of the revenue.