Bookmakers Relieved as Premier League Wins Right to Block Illegal Streams

Men excitedly watching a sports event on a laptop

It is the most watched football league in the world and also the most pirated. But now the English Premier League (EPL) has been granted an order by the UK High Court that will allow it to block and disrupt illegal streams throughout the 2018/2019 season.

The season starts Friday, August 10, when Manchester United takes on Leicester, and now the EPL can demand that the UK’s major internet service providers block and disrupt servers that host illegal streams.

A similar order was granted for the 2017/2018 season, which saw nearly 200,000 illegal streams blocked – in round figures, that is approximately 1,000 illegal streams per Premier League game – and one man received a jail sentence for setting up a streaming service. But this new order will allow the EPL to have the streams blocked even more effectively.

The order will also cover short clips shown on social media, such as a 20-second clip of a goal or a controversial incident. About 450,000 such clips were removed last year. The Premier League’s director of legal services, Keith Plumb, said: “The protection of our copyright is hugely important to the future health of English football.”

Not just a soccer problem

Illegal streaming is a worldwide problem for all sports. The Indian Premier League in cricket is reported to have been widely pirated, and it is estimated that up to 3m people around the world watched last year’s Mayweather-McGregor fight on 239 illegal streams. One security expert said it was “the most pirated boxing match we have ever seen.”

With the legalization of online sports betting in the US, the demand for illegal streaming can only increase, which will be bad news for online sports betting companies and their customers.

Reliability and trust

Human nature dictates that if we can watch something for free, we’ll do that rather than pay for it. I hold my hand up and plead guilty: I watched a couple of my team’s games last season with Chinese commentary. But if you are betting in-play on the game then it is absolutely vital that you can rely on the integrity of the stream. The main problem with illegal streams is that they are often delayed: that the live game is in the 22nd minute when the “live stream” you’re watching is in the 19th.

For gamblers, that is clearly bad news: They can be attracted by a seemingly attractive price on their team, not knowing that they have already conceded a goal. If that happens too many times, they start to distrust in-play betting, meaning that, ultimately, the turnover of the sports betting companies will suffer.

So you can expect the sports betting companies to stand firmly behind the EPL and all the other leagues around the world that take similar action. If illegal streams continue to proliferate, sports betting companies will lose turnover and customers, as gamblers increasingly find that they can’t believe what they are watching.