When the new Premier League season began last month, those hoping for a return to normality had their hopes dashed once again.
With social-distancing restrictions still in place the stadium ban continued, leaving fans with few other options than to watch games on TV. But this is the Premier League and not only is everything expensive, but it’s also complicated too.
As previously highlighted, UK fans have a choice between spending a small fortune to watch matches on TV or not watch them at all, despite fans in other countries being able to watch all matches for the smallest of outlays.
In the meantime, however, one site in particular is cutting through all of the red tape while eliminating all costs, at least for those bold enough to step over to the dark side of pirate streaming portals.
Background: /r/SoccerStreams Banned By Reddit
Readers may recall that in January 2019, /r/soccerstreams, a forum on Reddit dedicated to pirated football/soccer streams, was handed a final warning by Reddit’s administrators. The huge sub-Reddit, which at the time had in excess of 420,000 subscribers, was on borrowed time after receiving more than its fair share of complaints from copyright holders.
It was later revealed that the Premier League had a played a key role in having the sub-Reddit shut down. While that can be chalked up as a success, it wasn’t a success story as the final whistle blew on the community.
SoccerStreams.net – A Piracy Giant With Unprecedented Growth
In one form or another, SoccerStreams.net has been offering links to pirated sports streams for some time but it began to gain additional traction last year, not too long after /r/soccerstreams was shut down.
Sharing the same name and proudly advertising the fact that the site was created by the founders of its Reddit namesake, the unprecedented interest in SoccerStreams over the past several months is now a sight to behold.
Relatively small visitor numbers at the start of the year are now being utterly dwarfed by huge crowds of hungry football fans looking for a free fix instead of several expensive subscriptions, expensive PPVs, or the now non-available expensive ticket, pie and a pint.
The above web traffic analysis provided by SimilarWeb shows traffic in April 2020 of around 280,000 visits per month to SoccerStreams.net. By May, the ‘slight’ rise on the graph reveals 2.5 million visits, with June skyrocketing to more than 18 million visitors.
Four weeks on, the site was receiving 26.6 million visits per month, dipping slightly to 23.3 million in August and rising again to roughly 25.5 million in September. Such a meteoric rise is rarely witnessed in the piracy space, especially by sites specializing in just one area of content consumption.
Massively Popular in the UK
Clearly, the rise of SoccerStreams is nothing less than impressive but it is where the growth is coming from that perhaps points to the bigger picture. At the time of writing, Norway, Portugal and Canada each provide around 5% of the site’s traffic, with the United States accounting for close to 19%.
Right at the top, however, is the 22.3% currently coming from the UK, with SimilarWeb reporting that the UK’s traffic share is up a staggering 63.55% over the past month. It’s impossible to say whether all of this traffic is bound for Premier League action but considering its popularity, there’s a good chance it accounts for much of it.
Indeed, according to SimilarWeb, SoccerStreams.net is now the 439th most-visited site in the UK, period. Other stats provided by Alexa, another platform offering website traffic analysis, reveals that the streaming links platform is now the most popular pirate site in the whole of the UK. Another popular sports streaming site, Liveonscore.tv, is not far behind.
That paints a picture of a lot of pent up demand and revenue to be realized, if only the Premier League and its broadcasting partners could get over themselves and start thinking more seriously about how the current problems can be solved at a sensible price.
This is a really bad move by the @premierleague to charge £14.95 for single matches that have been shown free for 6 months !
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) October 9, 2020
Of course, the entire business is ridiculously complicated but if fans can’t afford to pay the extortionate rates on the current “take it or leave it basis”, the above traffic analysis shows they don’t necessarily have to “leave it” at all.
Sites like SoccerStreams.net are filling that gap and that isn’t good for an industry struggling to come to terms with the new state of play. However, one can’t help think that aspects of this crisis are at least partially self-inflicted, with astronomical costs ultimately being footed by the fans, despite the pandemic.
Unfortunately for top-flight football, fans’ loyalty is now being pushed to breaking point alongside a background of Premier League clubs still managing to spend £1 billion in transfer fees over the summer, all while many people are struggling to pay their bills.