How publicans can spot fraudsters pushing illegal sports packages

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Stay onside: leading sports providers advise pubs on how to avoid illegal sports packages
Stay onside: leading sports providers advise pubs on how to avoid illegal sports packages

Related tags: Commercial viewing agreement, Sky sports, Premier league

The message to publicans being offered dodgy deals on sports packages is simple – “if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is”.

A number of publicans who have recently been fined for showing illegal broadcasts of live sport have said they believed what they had signed up for was a legitimate subscription. 

One such publican from South Tyneside, who was hit with a £10,000 fine for illegally showing Premier League football last month, said he believed he was the “victim”.

He told The Shields Gazette​ he had been paying a company about £1,200 for two or three years, and that the promotional materials they had used “emphasised” what they were showing was legal.

Very 'black and white'

However, Kieron Sharp, CEO of intellectual property protection organisation FACT, said publicans should be aware the law is “very black and white” when it comes to showing sport.

“Accessing premium pay-for-view content without the right subscription or permissions is illegal,” he told The Morning Advertiser​.

“If you are looking for a good deal on the latest sports, go directly to the official provider, Sky or BT, to ensure you do not fall foul of the law.

“We would advise to stay clear of any service or product that offers ways to dodge direct subscriptions or paying for digital content.

“If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”

BT Sport confirmed that it would never go door to door offering packages, and that the only way to show sport legally is through signing up with the company directly.

Criminal prosecution

The only legal way to show Sky Sports broadcasts in pubs in the UK is also through a commercial viewing agreement from Sky Business – no other way is legal.

“The showing of Sky programming in licensed premises without a commercial viewing agreement is illegal and those who do so could face criminal prosecution or risk being sued for copyright infringement,” said a spokesman for Sky Sports.

“This may result in substantial financial penalties. Last month, two licensees in London were ordered to pay more than £65,000 in damages and costs for breaching copyright by showing Sky Sports to customers without a commercial agreement from Sky.”

Top tips from Sky to avoid signing up to a fake subscription package:

  • A pub subscription to Sky Sports programming from anyone other than Sky Business is not legitimate.
  • Legitimate Sky Business commercial subscribers will receive a Sky licence to display in their window and will also see a pint glass icon appear on their TV screen from time to time. The lack of either of these can reveal who is – and most importantly, who is not showing Sky legally.
  • Sky Sports is only available to licensed premises via Sky’s satellite platform. Any offerings of Sky Sports via any other agreement or means of distribution, including online streaming are unauthorised are not legitimate.
  • If someone offers you legal support with a TV product, you should suspect the service is not legitimate. We have had numerous reports of illegal suppliers offering to pay legal costs if action is brought for unauthorised screenings but then fail to do this when their customers are prosecuted.

Sky has encouraged anyone approached by a supplier attempting to mislead them with illegal systems, or who knows of a business that is screening broadcasts illegally, to contact them so it can investigate. This can be done here.​ 

Related topics: Legislation, Entertainment, Sport

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