With the Community Shield taking place this weekend, the long wait Premier League fans have endured for the new season is almost over.
But for those who can’t, this new Premier League season could prove the most challenging ever. That is because the Premier League have succeeded in renewing their so-called ‘Super Block’ court order for another season which means that those turning to sketchy online streams of Premier League games could now find it harder than ever.
What is the Premier League’s ‘Super-Block’?
The ‘Super-Block’, as it has been dubbed by the tabloid media, is a court order which the Premier League first secured in 2017. At the time, it set a new legal precedent but in subsequent years this ruling has become increasingly common.
It essentially gives the Premier League the power to track illegal streams of their matches online and then force the UK’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block them.
All of the main UK ISPs, BT, Virgin Media, EE, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk either support the order or have remained strictly neutral. All have complied with it to the best of their abilities.
Last season, the order was renewed and it became increasingly effective as both the Premier League and ISPs got more effective at implementing it. According to The Sun newspaper, they were successfully blocking at least 200,000 illegal streams by the end of last season.
It was widely expected that the Premier League would seek to renew the Super-Block order for another season. There have been no obvious changes which suggested the court would not renew the order, as we reported last month, a similar court order has recently been secured in Ireland.
But unlike previous seasons, when they were loud and proud about the fact they had obtained it, there has been precious little noise coming out of Premier League HQ.
But the TorrentFreak website has now seen evidence that the ‘Super-Block’ has indeed be renewed for the 2019/20 season. They report that the new High Court Order was signed off by Justice Arnold on 15th July.
While there has been no official confirmation of this by either the Premier League or the High Court yet, one ISP, which also has a vested interest in the television rights, has issued a statement confirming the fact.
Sky has stated publicly that “a number of unidentified servers associated with infringing Premier League match footage will be blocked until the end of the 2019/20 Premier League season.”
No doubt there will be a big announcement from the Premier League in due course. They are proud of their successful implementation of the Super-Block and have always been keen to shout about it from the rooftops.
Only last month, at the Westminster Media Forum (WMF), a media conference, the Executive Director of the Premier League, William Bush said, “With Super-Block, we can move really quickly, and the good thing about that is just the risk of disruption of the feed means that consumers will tend to go to a legal offering if they can get it.”
“Because if there’s a 15-20-30-40-50 per cent risk that the match is going to go down, then they’re going to be hacked off about it,” he added, rather smugly.
The problem with ‘Super-Block’
It is understandable that the Premier League want to try and protect the value of their asset. But the fact remains that by selling the rights to live matches to not one but two hugely expensive subscription TV networks, they are pricing a lot of ordinary fans out of their product altogether.
Sure, some can go and watch in pubs but the environment there is not always pleasant and they are often not a place that kids or women in particular feel comfortable.
For those fans, the choice is paying for two subscriptions they can’t afford or seeking an alternative online.
Fortunately, there are more affordable options available. While the Premier League is on subscription TV almost everywhere now, there are some much more cost-effective options out there.
In other countries, the subscription prices are much more affordable and more importantly show every game. Users have been turning to VPN services to stream live Premier League matches from overseas providers in the UK or anywhere around the world and so save big bucks.
The Premier League’s ‘Super-Block’ also only applies to UK-based ISPs. It will therefore still be possible to access affected streams if you are based outside the UK. It won't have escaped savvy-football viewers that there are clearly ways around the block.
There is also the simple fact that the ‘Super-Block’ will not be able to pick up every illegal stream out there. It may take some searching but the chances are there will always be a stream available if fans look hard enough.