Twitter Is The Enemy of the Premier League

footytweetsThe crackdown on football blogs by Football DataCo and NetResult continues. This time it’s not only to prevent a website using club crests, but FootyTweets has received a cease and desist letter telling the site owner to stop providing match updates by Twitter unless he purchases a licence that will allow him to do a maximum of nine updates per match. The cost? More than £15,000 per year.

It seems quite bizarre and archaic in these days of technological advances, but the Football DataCo governs the usage of everything from fixture lists, match updates and official team crests. Football DataCo is the company which acts as a copyright watchdog for the FA Premier League, Football League, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League.

Cease and desist letters are quite common these days for football blogs. 101 Great Goals received one for linking to goal highlights, the Premier League sued YouTube, The Offside received one for using club crests — even EPL Talk received one recently for publishing match fixtures and using licensed images without permission. We’ve corrected the images issue, but my response to them regarding match fixtures is that we don’t publish fixtures — we simply publish TV listings for matches shown on Setanta, Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV and ESPN (all with their permission).

For FootyTweets, the match updates were added to the Twitter feed from an outside source. Unfortunately that means that all of the other sites that are running match updates via Twitter are likely to decrease. Or maybe not?

The next consideration for FootyTweets owner Ollie Parsley is seeing if match updates can happen through crowdsourcing. “I think that if we can come together and create a standard way of writing match updates then I, and others can integrate it into FootyTweets and other apps. What do you think? For instance I could tweet “#goal Bent scored in the 90th minute #thfc 1 – 0 #mufc”. This would mean that Marcus Bent scored a goal for Tottenham Hotspur in the 90th minute and the current score is now 1-0.”

This story is definitely far from over, but more importantly it’s another example of how the Premier League doesn’t get web 2.0. Instead of embracing the power of the Internet to increase the popularity of the league and generate more revenue, it seems set on trying to police the Internet site-by-site with old world licensing rules. The longer the Premier League (and other leagues) employ these primitive tactics, the worse the problem gets for them as more technology advances and Internet websites flourish.

18 thoughts on “Twitter Is The Enemy of the Premier League”

  1. @Red Ranter it is such a grey area that if someone approaches the Football DataCo about it their eyes might be opened up about what microblogging and live blogging is. That might mean they send out lots more C&D’s


  2. They are honestly the dumbest people on the face of the earth. How hard is it to understand these concepts?

    People want to watch the matches online – Put them online, advertise, make money from it.

    People want goal highlights – Put them online, advertise and make money from it

    People want twitter updates – Create your own damn twitter page

    No, instead let’s battle people who merely want to engage with your product.

  3. Red Ranter, the same question popped into my head this morning. Based on the actions by Football DataCo, live blogging would be illegal too unless the site has paid for the rights to give match updates (maximum of nine per game). It’s bloody ridiculous.

    The Premier League needs a chief technology officer to take the league’s policies and technology into the 21st century.

    The Gaffer

  4. Im afraid now.. Do these guys publish a list of rules to follow. I understand the whole image thing but publishing results or match updates without license ? Come on!

    Yea sure the end result for a blog or site publishing results is that visitors will return for updates and in turn result in potential financial gain.. But I for one would be a long time trying to regain 15K.

    Id like to know their view on using Widgets showing results/updates….

    Good post dude.. thanks again!

  5. this article seems a little misleading. It’s not Twitter that is the enemy but sites that prevent a useful news feed.

    At least in the United States, this seems like it falls directly under NBA v. Motorola.

    “In this case, the Second Circuit found that statistics from an NBA game are facts, and therefore are not subject to copyright law.”

  6. The other day I wanted to show a friend a nice goal I had seen on TV in the German League. I had trouble finding it on youtube because some company representing the German League kept demanding that relatively low quality 1 minute videos of the goal be taken down.

    Now German football isn’t the most attractive and there are now proposals that each German household pay a tax to subsidize German football teams so that they can be more competitive with the Spanish, English, and Italian teams.

    I thought, here’s youtube as a free advertising medium to show that once in a while you see great goals in German football. But alas, it seems that they ignorantly don’t want people to see their product.

  7. I sympathize with you guys. I do understand the frustration you feel about this sort of thing.

    But the reality is, the EPL is justified with this stuff. They have to be protective of their marks, and the dissemination of league content, or else it steadily loses value. Think of it in this way: The league doesn’t sell football so much as it sells rights agreements. Those rights agreements have far more value when there is exclusivity attached.

    So all this stuff — shutting down Twitter feeds, protecting trademarked crests, suing unauthorized video feeds — is done to protect that exclusivity. It’s not our right to water it down, no matter how romantic we wish to be about “Web 2.0” and other arbitrary technological advances. Ownership is still ownership. Just because a bunch of people use the Internet now doesn’t render that untrue.

  8. Love the legal view. Good job. You know the more I think about it them more I believe that the Prem is it’s own worst enemy. No doubt rights management and protection are critical but as has been proven in the US free TV has increased popularity and lead to increased people showing up in the stands. The more exposure the better. England or Germany or Italy is no different. If the Prem decided to go with a resonable on-demand online service they couldn’t count the money fast enough. Frankly, the EPL is still in the 50’s as far as it’s media rights ideas are concerned. Hoepfully, the American owners now in the EPL will help the EPL come into the next century in it’s media dealings.

  9. … as has been proven in the US free TV has increased popularity and lead to increased people showing up in the stands.

    But the point isn’t “free TV” that results in “people showing up in the stands.”

    The point is selling game rights for as much as possible. That’s where it’s important for the EPL — or anyone selling exclusive anything — to be able to sit down with potential buyers and say: “This will be all yours.” The whole “all yours” thing gets a little screwed up when the stuff is all over the Internet.

    ESPN can’t just broadcast basketball games for which CBS has purchased the rights — so why should you or any other entity be able to do it? Simply because you’re on “the Internet” doesn’t change anything in the bigger scheme of things. If you’re capable of broadcasting, you’re capable of broadcasting, whether you’re ESPN or some YouTuber with an anonymous handle.

  10. ThomD, I have no problem with the Premier League protecting their license rights. My beef against the whole thing is that these license rights are outdated and need to be upgraded for modern times. They need to develop a system that protects their rights, generates greater revenue but one that is relevant for the internet age. Unfortunately it sounds like it’s not a priority for the Premier League to change these license agreements, so instead it tries to police them by contacting website after website. They’ll never win that battle if they continue down that path.

    The Gaffer

  11. Very good Chris. The Prem lives in the past as I said above on media rights. ThomD I have no problem with the selling of media rights and protecting them. The Prem is just using a stone age model and Chris’ point is well made about contacting website after website. If they offered a reasonably price online service they would haul in the cash.

  12. Live blogging and the like are totally legal and protected in the United States. My recommendation for any site looking to do so for the Premier League is to find someone in the States willing to take it up for them.

    When pagers came out in the 1980s, companies started offering services that would send live score updates to your pager for the major American professional and college sports. The NBA sued these companies on the same grounds that the Premier League is sending cease and desist letters.

    The courts in the U.S. ruled that scores, status updates, textual play-by-plays are all considered news and that reporting these events, even live, was protected by the First Amendment (freedom of speech/press).

    This court decision was reinforced when MLB recently tried to sue several fantasy baseball services for using the names of players and statistics without paying licensing fees. Once again the courts ruled that these events were still news and still protected by the First Amendment. If Albert Pujols hits a homerun, telling others that Albert Pujols hit a homerun is well within the free public’s rights.

    It’s still, obviously, illegal to retransmit or rebroadcast someone else’s specific audio or video feed (, etc).

    Without getting into a debate over intellectual property in general (namely that the only reason reproduction/duplication is considered theft is because the expectation for exclusivity has been created through government force and doesn’t exist naturally, as compared to the real physical loss that occurs through material theft), I agree with the U.S. courts and not ThomD.

    I fail to see how reporting on events that take place under the public eye is the exclusive right of the Premier League.

  13. (But I am not familiar with the rights of the press and public in the U.K.)

    (ESPN, based in Connecticut, does live textual play-by-play for EPL matches on their Soccernet website. I wonder if they’re paying licensing fees?)

  14. As a follow up, I’d like to add these rulings have actually helped MLB position itself going forward, much as the Gaffer seems to hope the Premier League will. There isn’t a sporting league on Earth better wired into the internet than MLB.

    Their subsidiary, MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media), which handles all their online content, is a cash cow ($600M in revenue last year). What’s more, it’s the only revenue stream shared equally among the 30 clubs, so as the internet becomes more and more important it stands to reason (if revenue sharing remains unchanged) that MLB will become more and more egaliatarian as a league as revenue streams are redirected online.

    Check out</a?’s Gameday feature. It’s amazing. To compete with sites offering textual play-by-plays, MLBAM rolled out Gameday which gives a javascript graphical representation of every pitch, live. It’s available free at for every game. Gameday also has live graphics that show the location of hits and outs and graphics that show a pitchers average velocity and hot and cold grids for individual batters’ strike zones. also has their own free fantasy baseball service and hosts free blogs.

    MLBAM has had to compete with other free services as a result of the court rulings and has improved its own content drastically to draw traffic back to the league’s official website. MLB just launced its own cable channel and via now offers free video highlights for every game on their site as well. Keep in mind that they’ve got 30 teams each playing 162 games in 181 days, so there are free highlights up for 2,400+ games a season.

    Being a baseball fan first and foremost, and a recent convert to the beautiful game, I have to say I’ve been spoiled by MLB, and am often left scratching my head at the Premier League. Living outside the U.K. I’m blocked from watching the online video highlights that get put up by English newspapers.’s online packages are fantastic, too. $80 gets you live streaming online video for all 2,400+ games (except the team judged to be from your local market). $110 gets you that same package but in HD and with a choice of the home or away team’s broadcast crew whenever available. $15 gets you the home and away radio broadcasts for every game with no market restrictions.

    I can’t even listen to the Beeb’s coverage living in the States.

    I think the Gaffer has some good points, especially as a foreign fan, about how hard the Premier League makes following their matches. Thankfully, since the Sirius and XM satellite radio merger, I now get EPL radio broadcasts that way.

  15. Abolish copyrights, they are an obsolete undemocratic concept only maintained in the interest of a select few who refuse to fix their business model to todays standards. The world is better off without them, be it the RIAA, MPAA, sonymusic, universal, or the “football leage” is irrelevant. the latter can make enough money on ticket sales. problem solved.

    If you can see it and store it in your brain you can also store it digitally and write about it, simple as that.

    everyone who tries to tell you otherwise should be shot on sight, don’t go to court, go to war, wave your fist and shout, one solution, revolution 😛

    ah and don’t forget to elect pirateparty on your way out.

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