No Wonder Online Piracy Of Soccer Broadcasts Is So Rampant

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Sometimes I’m not surprised that online piracy is so rampant when it comes to soccer. Trying to find out who has the rights to a game or tournament is very difficult, and even when you find a stream, you’re not sure whether it’s an official one or not.

Take, for example, the African Nations Cup which kicks off in a few hours from Angola. As far as I can tell, there’s no English-speaking television station in the United States that is broadcasting the game. And after spending 30 minutes searching through Google and message boards, I came across a site called My African Football, which appears to be real and will show the games live to visitors from the United States. But read the fine print a little closer, and you’ll see that there are many countries around the world where My African Football’s live coverage of the African Nations Cup is restricted.

And, still, I have no clue whether My African Football is a legitimate site or even official or not.

For veteran soccer fans who have scoured the Internet for years following the Premier League, they have a good idea of what is legal and what isn’t. However, for someone new to the league or sport, it’s extremely confusing to find the information they’re looking for. Just this past week’s soap opera of Setanta’s “will they or won’t they” show Premier League games on television and Setanta-i shows how frustrating it is to stay on top of the developments.

One of the most annoying sentences in the English language for soccer fans begins with “We’re sorry, but due to rights restrictions…”  If that sounds familiar, it’s the message from the BBC when you’ve tried to listen to a radio commentary online of a match that some other company has the rights to in your country.

The problem is how am I supposed to know who has the rights to that game? There is absolutely no information out there WHO has the rights. Visit the Premier League’s page on International Broadcasters, and if you select ‘United States” from the drop-down list, you’ll arrive at this page that has two listings. One for Setanta Sports and one for Fox Soccer Channel. So far, so good. But click on the ‘Visit Website’ link for Fox Soccer Channel and you’ll get a “Page not found” error message. And while the page lists the TV rights holders for the Premier League in the United States, the page doesn’t explain who has the online rights or radio rights.

The radio rights are held by Sirius Satellite Radio. And the online rights are held by Fox and Setanta, but at two totally different websites (FoxSoccer.tv and Setanta-i.com) than the ones listed on the TV page.

While I don’t condone online piracy of soccer broadcasts, I completely understand where the soccer fan is coming from. It’s much easier to go to Justin.tv than to spend a few hours searching through Google trying to find who has the game. While that may sound like an easy cop-out for soccer fans, I disagree. Rights restrictions are confusing. Yes, soccer fans should know better where to find legal streams of the Premier League, but even finding online stream of the Champions League is confusing since it has changed so much in the past six months.

The answer to all of this mess, I believe, is a centralized directory of all of the soccer rights from around the world. One simple, easy to navigate website, that lists who owns the rights to which games on which media for every league and tournament around the world. If UEFA, FIFA, Premier League and other leagues are serious about fighting online piracy, it needs to begin with better communication rather than heavy-handed tactics that help no one.

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