There are a number of risks associated with illicit streams of Premier League matches
Manchester United and Newcastle United will clash at 3pm today. The game promises to be one of the biggest games of the EPL season so far, thanks to the return of one man. Yes, football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United and will make his second debut for the club he left in 2009.
Ronaldo was allowed to leave the Portugal camp a little early, allowing him to take part in training with the Manchester United squad since Tuesday. The superstar player will be looking to help his new teammates continue their strong start to the season, which has seen the side swerve defeat in every fixture so far.
But Manchester United vs Newcastle United also promises to be a historic match for all the wrong reasons.
That’s because while football fans in every country across the globe will be able to tune-in to watch the fixture live, there a few exceptions. Viewers in Cuba, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Afghanistan… and the United Kingdom will not be able to watch Cristiano Ronaldo return to the pitch in Manchester United kit.
The Manchester United vs Newcastle United clash was not picked by the three British broadcasters carrying the EPL this season – Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime – during the September match selections. That means it was shifted to the 3pm slot on Saturday, which is subject to the longstanding “broadcast blackout” rule designed to safeguard attendance in football stadiums across the UK.
As such, the only people in the UK who can watch the match legally will be inside Old Trafford.
Manchester United vs Newcastle is set to be the most illegally streamed game ever, with almost over 2million people set to watch it via an illegal stream #MUFC
— United Update (@UnitedsUpdate) September 11, 2021
But that’s not to say thousands of fans won’t be watching from home. News account UnitedUpdate that Manchester United vs Newcastle “is set to be the most illegally streamed game ever”. According to its data, more than “2 million people set to watch it via an illegal stream” today. Express.co.uk has been unable to verify those figures, however, there’s little doubt the match promises to see huge viewing figures online. Last year, when all Premier League games were televised in the UK during the lockdown, piracy of the EPL spiralled. At its peak, some two million fans admitting to illegally streaming a match …so the estimated figure for the fixture today isn’t too outlandish.
However, watching or downloading copyright-protected material for free is a crime. Those who are found to be distributing illicit ways to watch top-flight football fixtures – can face harsh penalties. Back in July, a man was arrested by West Mercia Police in connection with suspected illegal streaming of pay-TV channels. Police had worked with FACT on the case.
Officers have also recently visited homes in Essex, Hertfordshire, West Yorkshire and Pembrokeshire. When the police visit an address, a notice warning to immediately cease any illegal streaming activity is handed to the homeowners. It’s a dramatic step-up compared to previous anti-piracy efforts. In the past, broadband providers – including BT and Sky – have sent out similar notices in the mail to addresses believed to be streaming content for free.
Under UK law, the only people who can watch the match legally today are sitting in Old Trafford
Internet suppliers are able to detect when customers are using their home broadband to illegally access copyrighted material, either using streaming sites, or illicit set-top boxes, like so-called Kodi and IPTV Boxes.
Kieron Sharp, Chief Executive of FACT said: “We employ a range of tactics to prevent the provision of illegal streaming. Our continuous activity targets different elements of the global piracy landscape, with consideration given to the scale of the offending to ensure effective and proportionate action is taken. By taking these measures we are sending a clear message. Piracy is fraud and anyone motivated by financial gain from doing this needs to know that this is a crime which will be taken seriously by Police.”
A knock on the door from your local police officer isn’t the only risk associated with illegal streaming. Research has consistently shown an increased risk of malware and credit card fraud when accessing content via illicit streaming services and websites. A number of IPTV boxes sold with access to Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and other paid-for channels for a low monthly fee of a couple of pounds or so. However, paying for these illicit streaming options exposes your credit or debit card to bad actors who could use those details (or not keep them encrypted and secure), for example.
Warning viewers about the increased risks when choosing free or low-cost illicit options, Sharp added: “Now that the new Premier League season is in full swing, some fans may be tempted not to view the matches appropriately on proper channels or selected devices and the risks for users are not without consequences. By clicking on links or misleading adverts fans are opening themselves up to their device being infected by a virus ransomware attacks, or even a data breach.
“Cybersecurity firm Webroot recently found that 92 percent of illegal streaming sites used for pirating sports content over a single weekend were promoting a range of Bitcoin and mobile app scams, as well as containing malware threats. In addition, watching content live via an unauthorised website or add-on can expose viewers (young and old) to explicit advertisements and age-inappropriate content. Unlike most legal sources, these unauthorised websites, devices, apps and the content that they can access have no effective parental controls.”
The news of this latest fine comes after a Sky customer is being forced to pay £5,000 after his account was linked to an illegal stream on Facebook.