December 2017 was a landmark month for UEFA and its flagship club competition, the UEFA Champions League.
While the competition’s five English clubs made history by advancing to the knockout stage – the first time a country has had that many clubs in the last 16 – UEFA was also granted the power to block illegal match streams by the English high court.
The Premier League was awarded a similar court order at the end of the 2016-17 season to cover the current campaign, this new injunction allows UEFA to instruct the UK’s biggest internet service providers – including BT – to block illegal streams on their behalf.
BT Sport director of commercial customers Bruce Cuthbert said: “Fundamentally, for our customers, they want to know that we are taking the issue of illegal streaming seriously and that people who are breaking the law – because that’s what they are doing – are not going to get away with it.”
FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft, the intellectual property protection organisation) investigation manager Nick Matthews summarised: “We feel
that the high court order highlights the serious nature of what is going on here and how seriously the courts see this.
“It sends out a clear message to the public and people who are involved about how seriously the rights holders and the agencies who assist them, take this kind of action.”
Separate to the blocking orders, publicans who are found to be illegally broadcasting live sport can face prosecution and a fine depending on the scale of their operation, the impact their actions have had on local business and where they’re located – with the largest fine handed out so far
Focus on European matches
With huge games coming up featuring Chelsea, Manchester Utd, Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs in the UEFA Champions League last 16, publicans who are considering streaming the games illegally may want to think again.
Under the Premier League’s current blocking order, BT already blocks 500 to 1,000 illegal streams per Premier League match and will now also block illegal streams of UEFA Champions League and
UEFA Europa League games.
The only legal means for pubgoers in the UK to watch European football when the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League return is via a BT Sport commercial subscription. As part of its own enforcement activity, BT Sport expects to visit 20,000 sites this season to stamp out illicit streaming.
Cuthbert adds: “If you looked at it in practical terms, you might have pubs that are planning to show next week’s matches using an illegal stream but when it comes to a few minutes before kick-off, they put on the TV expecting to see Spurs or City, they’ll be met with a blank screen and disgruntled customers.
“Our preferred route is obviously that when we find people doing it, we want them to either stop doing it altogether or show the match legally.
“If you present the facts, explain what they’re doing and then show a way forward, the majority will stop doing it or sign up – that’s ultimately the goal that we have.
“When you visit a large number of premises every year, it’s very easy to spot the ones who are at it and then have that conversation.”
For more information visit www.btsportbusiness.com