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No Wonder Online Piracy Of Soccer Broadcasts Is So Rampant


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 ( and 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 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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  1. david

    January 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    My sources now tell me that a third party may have joined the negotiations between FOx and Setanta – and they are BIG.
    Just speculation like everything else at this point.

  2. david

    January 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I only ask because Setanta Ireland sent me a schedule this morning for January that includes Premiership games through to Jan 31st.
    I replied and asked them about all the reports of a buy-out to which they replied that the situation has now been ‘resolved’.
    My follow up enquiry went unanswered.

  3. david

    January 11, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks Gaffer,

  4. Shane

    January 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Piracy is terrible but you are correct the rights holder FIFA/UEFA/EPL do a terrible job telling people where it is. It is left to the broadcaster who then also has to fight the piracy on their dime. Which is like fighting the Taliban. It is never ending and painful. There are a host of sites out there that show soccer but not always good quality and not always for the whole game.

    As for the African Nations. ART own the rights in the US but t don’t seem to want to sell it to any English broadcaster. I tried several times when at Setanta to buy it. It is a great event and it is shame that no one has it is in English which will lead to more piracy.

    • david

      January 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

      Hey Shane,
      Why don’t you enlighten us to what is happening with Setanta USA?
      There are many subscribers and soccer pubs in New York who are very frustrated with the lack of info. Has Setanta been bought out by Fox? Are they going off the air this week?
      I know of two pubs who are fuming because they just forked out a grand to get DISH or DirecTV purely for the Setanta channel.

      • The Gaffer

        January 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm

        David, my sources are telling me that a decision should be finalized this week.

        The Gaffer

      • Shane

        January 11, 2010 at 2:54 pm

        Can’t say at the moment but it is looking like a fox deal. Not sure what that will mean but my guess is that they will keep the model for now.

  5. Transic

    January 11, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I wish it was funny but when even baseball has a better way of streaming events to those who want to watch it then it is really THAT bad.

  6. Josh

    January 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    As a college kid, I don’t really have the ability to follow my team in any way but illegal streams. I started out buying the radio service through Arsenal’s official website, but once I realized I could watch FSC and other channels for free, I jumped all over it. I know what I’m doing isn’t necessarily right, but given what’s available to me, I can either listen to the game for money, or watch it for free. Morals aside, it’s an easy decision for the college soccer fan.

    • J

      January 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Same here.
      Here in Canada we have Rogers Sportsnet and The Score that offer one match apiece per week. But as a student living in residence, I can only turn to online streams. Just install sopcast and then watch everything for free.

      Btw, for those of you who don’t know, in China, every PL match is offered online for FREE. And it’s legal.

  7. Matthew

    January 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I totally agree with you! I’ve just moved to California from the UK and am perplexed by the minefield that is finding out what channels are showing what games!

  8. TJ

    January 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    The record company analogy is valid. I’ve worked for a record company for twelve years and we’ve had to re-vamp our model because of piracy. The key now, as it should be for EPL and all other leagues, is tapping into other revenue streams. We no longer make the majority of our money on record sales, but rather by partnering with the artists on sales, touring, licensing, and merch.

    By providing widespread online access of all teams, leagues, matches, you are further exposing and developing your brand, and in turn the licensing and merchandising opportunities. Producing in-house would also allow for more direct sponsorship money.

    Just as music sites like Napster, Limewire, etc. thrived until the launch of iTunes, sites like JustinTV, ATDHE, IraqGoals, etc., will continue to thrive and expand until the leagues start providing high-quality access and value for their customers.

  9. brn442

    January 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    It’s just another example of byzantine lunacy of broadcasting football.

    There are so many regional tournaments that are in high demand by many in the States: Copa America, African Cup, even some Concacaf matches that are only accessible in an ethnic pub if you’re lucky. The pay per view / pub model was designed before the emergence of broadband. There is no reason why rights cannot be sold on a pay per tournament/match model on a centralized site, as Matt said not unlike itunes or Hulu – that’s well branded. Since the demise of soccertv, it has been hard even finding the matches let alone worrying about downloading a virus from a dubious looking site.

    Gaffer, it’s people like you, that have the credibility and leverage to get a start up off the ground, get a business plan together, make a few calls, and make everyone happy.

  10. Jim Smirrell

    January 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I respectfully disagree. You say that even if the Spanish, Italian and English leagues “decided to stream their matches online, you’d have to buy separate packages”. Why exactly? Is this written in stone somewhere ?
    This kind of neolithic, stuck-in-the-mud thinking is what has paralyzed a multitude of industries faced with seeing there traditional cash cows strolling over the horizon. My “poor excuse” to watch games illegally is a simple reaction to the legal options I am being offered. I would stop in a heartbeat if the market would provide me with a fairly priced alternative. I downloaded from Napster too, but stopped completely (as did many) as soon as I could buy music online ligitimately.

    • AmplifiedtoRock

      January 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm


      If there were some service available that was going to provide EVERY match from EVERY major European tournament (France, Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Amsterdam). If this was going to provide league matches and domestic cup matches, do you realize what the cost would be to the end user for something like that? The idea that you would be able to pay some company $50 to receive all the sport you want simply isn’t feasible, no matter how attractive it might be to the common user. There is simply too much money involved in the production of these events. The cost to make content widely available online would add to production costs. Who does that cost get passed down to? The customer.

      I’m not certain of what the exact details are, but there are different FA’s for each country and they’ll each want their share of the money generated by online content sales.

      Think of it like this: How much do you have to pay to receive every game of the NBA, MLB, NHL or NFL individual from the others? Even if there was a service offering all of those for one rate, it would still be well over $300 US. Add the costs of their online versions and you’ve got a similar number. The cost for something along the lines of what you are asking for is never going to be cheap.

      And even if, somehow, a service came along offering live content from several different leagues live and on demand for an incredibly low price of, say $100 US for the season, you’d STILL have people whinging that it was too expensive and that they refuse to pay for football.

      The fact that there are legitimate services available at all allowing football that might not otherwise be available to fans around the world is a massive step forward from where we were even 5 years ago. I’m more than happy to pay $30 to watch the ACN online when it won’t be available on television here. It’s legitimate and, perhaps, if more numbers did that, it would show the networks over here that it might be a tournament worth covering in the future.

  11. Tyson

    January 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Theres a pretty big scene for football in terms of streams.

    While there is generally plenty of coverage of all the major leagues and tournaments in England the sport has an expansive following in China, the Middle East and Africa that don’t get much football apart from the world cup which practically everybody gets.

    Streams suck but to be honest sometimes its just what you have to make do with.

    • The Gaffer

      January 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Some countries in the Middle East used to have every single Premier League game shown on television live via Showtime. That service may still be running, but the coverage of the Premier League is alive and well in the Middle East, China and Africa. It’s spotty in places, but it’s on a country by country basis.

      The Gaffer

  12. Kyle

    January 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Yeah but what if you would like to record matches if you say collect them.

    • The Gaffer

      January 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Setanta-i gives you the option to record matches, legally – to save them for later viewing.

      The Gaffer

  13. AmplifiedtoRock

    January 10, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Not wanting to pay for the multitude of services offering content legitimately is a poor, but unfortunately the most common, excuse for watching illegal streams. All Champions League and Europa League matches are now available via legal streams. So is the ACN. Yes, the charges per match will add up, but there are also discounted rates available if you wish to watch more than one match.

    Would it be great if all football matches were available from one service in one place? Yes. Is it going to happen? No. Even if the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A all decided to stream their matches online, you’d have to buy separate packages. Technology is moving forward, but we’re a long way from a DirecTV-type provider that provides legitimate a la carte streaming content across several companies.

    The fact is, there is MUCH more content available via legal streaming media than there was even five years ago. Yes, there are different companies, but there are also different cable and satellite companies offering varying content. Right now, if you want live streaming content legitimately, you’ve got to pay for it. Refusing to do so absolutely does not justify seeking illegal streams. It simply perpetuates the problem.

  14. timmyg

    January 10, 2010 at 11:34 am

    English sporting television is LIGHT-YEARS behind American sporting television.

    If you log onto NBC, you can stream American Football matches live with different camera angles and graphics. During March Madness, when there are like 30 games going on at the same time, you can log onto the NCAA’s website and stream every single game!

    Heck ,you can even do that on UEFA’s and FIFA’s website.

    One of the reasons why I don’t like the opening rounds of the FA Cup is because most matches aren’t televised — even illegally! The FA could easily mimic the NCAA’s March Madness pay-per-view streaming mechanism. And it would work!

    In regards to TV, the EPL is an absolute joke.

    • Tom Hingley

      January 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      I think you are being a little harsh. Firstly football (soccer) has always been broadcasted differently than football (American!). The footballing bodies here have to protect attendances actually at stadiums. By offering a game-by-game streaming package for all matches, they would rip the bottom out of a lot of clubs gates.

      Say they did it just for international viewers, would they actually make more money than selling the rights to broadcasters? I’m less sure personally. The streaming business is getting bigger, but I think we are some years off it overtaking traditional TV broadcasting.

      As for your dislike of the opening rounds of the FA cup, to send live outside broadcasting units to every single game would be inpractical.

  15. Jim Smirrell

    January 10, 2010 at 11:21 am

    This is what happened with the record business. The companies were forced to cede control of their business to Apple/Itunes because they couldn’t agree amongst themselves on how to find a ligitimate solution to illegal downloading. I hope that this too will happen with soccer.
    Steve Jobs, any interest in the beautiful game?

  16. patrick

    January 10, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I talk about this all the time…

    The PL should just broadcast the online matches themselves. Open it to the world. Sell team or league subscriptions, offer replays, sell lower tier divisions online. It would be a huge money maker.

    Just look at the CES, content over cable and air on TV is near dead. IPTV will be common place in the next decade. Time to jump on that….

    anyway…. I guess the real problem is that the old men who run the FA and PL are drunk on the cash cow TV contracts they have received in the last 10 years… and with Setanta in the UK going bust, and end users of the TV content maxed out with charges for pay to watch services, it will only get worse. and then maybe they might get it when it effects the bottom line, or maybe when half the teams get debt repayment called and they tither on the edge of going broke they are forced into thinking outside the ‘box’.

  17. Jim Smirrell

    January 10, 2010 at 11:15 am

    My point is that to watch whatever games I want I need to buy a multitude of subscriptions. To watch the Africa Cup is eight bucks per game. I would like to pay a flat monthly fee-say $50 and watch whatever I want from wherever.
    This is not possible because the different governing bodies won’t band together to offer such a solution. Hence piracy.

  18. AmplifiedtoRock

    January 10, 2010 at 11:09 am


    CAF ARE providing the service on the internet via Don’t confuse offering service for a price for not offering services.


  19. Jim Smirrell

    January 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

    What makes the situation even worse is that to view FSC you need to buy a package from a cable or satt company. You can recieve Setanta as a single channel from Globecast for $15 but you need to spend around $300 on a receiver/installation.
    My solution, and the Mali Angola game is available there, is to go to and watch what I want there for free. I would happily pay a subscription for the services this site provides but right now I can’t. This is the fotball associations loss and they shouldn’t bitch about piracy when the rengade sites are providing there customers with the services they seem unwilling or unable to provide.

  20. Jeff H

    January 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

    For the record Gaffer, My African Football is a legit site. Its owned by sports rights company Sportfive, who are the CAF’s designated media and marketing rights agents for its national events.

  21. AmplifiedtoRock

    January 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Gaffer, is legitimate. I’ve watched the last ACN with them and have subscribed again this year. Invest with confidence.


    • The Gaffer

      January 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Amp, I don’t doubt you’re correct, but from a neutral’s perspective, I couldn’t find one sentence on saying that it was the official site for the streaming of the African Nations Cup.

      For the Premier League, there are now a host of websites out there that offer paid streams of matches, but again, it’s difficult to ascertain which ones are legal and which ones are scams. I don’t believe is a scam, but you get what I mean.

      The Gaffer

  22. ovalball

    January 10, 2010 at 10:08 am

    The exact same situation exists with rugby. Trying to sort out who has rights to what hemisphere, tour, league or tournament and whether those rights are TV or Internet can be a daunting task.

    Neither sport seems to be doing much, if anything at all, to make it easier for its fans to find and watch matches, which would in turn grow the sport and bring in more revenue. Go figure.

  23. Dan

    January 10, 2010 at 10:05 am

    A decent directory would be a huge step forward, but we should already be way beyond that stage. Like you, I was looking for that information 5 years ago.

    We’re now a decade into the 21st century and the EPL are still putting all their efforts into shutting down any illegitimate content, live or otherwise, instead of devolping ways of providing the coverage that fans all around the world want and the majority would pay for.

    The TV contracts are obviously a cash cow they want to protect at all costs, but they’re completely out of touch if they don’t see where we’re heading and they think they can keep sticking their fingers in the dyke to stop it.

  24. david

    January 10, 2010 at 9:55 am

    We have a TV schedule which is updated daily here.

    It’s bloody hard work keeping it accurate and up to date but we try our best.
    Obviously it’s not as comprehensive as used to be but unfortunately they are history now.

  25. Matt

    January 10, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Correct Gaffer.

    The football world in general is stuck in the 20th century when it comes to technology. Dont even get me started on the whole technology in the game itself!

    But when it comes to football, it would be VERY simple to set-up streams via iTunes or their own branded website and charge customers a fair price to watch games online. Eg. $2/£2 per match, or a monthly fee, or a season ticket for a specific team etc etc.

    I for one would not begrudge paying a couple of pound or dollars to watch a match if the stream was guaranteed and high quality.

    • The Gaffer

      January 10, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Matt, good points. But the leagues are so much in bed with the TV companies that the majority of them are far too short-sighted (and therefore primitive) in their Internet rights packages.

      For example, the 2010-2013 TV rights for the Premier League have been sewn up for more than six months yet we’re still waiting to find out what they’ve done with the Internet rights.

      The Gaffer

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