Football fans thoughts are now excitedly turning towards the start of a new season. But so too are the game’s administrators, with both the Premier League and UEFA taking fresh action to try and stop people accessing illegal streams of matches.
Once again, it is Kodi which seems to be primarily in the firing line, but VPNs have also come in for criticism.
Premier League injunction renewed for new season
Last month, the Premier League successfully managed to renew their injunction which requires British ISPs to block illegal streams of Premier League matches.
This injunction, which was granted under Section 97a of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act was first put in place in March 2017 and was renewed for the entirety of last season.
It gives the Premier League the power to “target the suppliers of illegal streams to IPTV boxes, and the internet, in a proportionate and precise manner.”
What that means in practice is that ISPs including BT, Sky, TalkTalk, EE, PlusNet and Virgin Media can be required to block any stream which the Premier League flags to them. The previous injunction ran until May 13th 2018 but included a clause which allowed the Premier League to extend it for another season.
This extension has now been granted by Mr Justice Arnold, who noted that some ISPs actively supported the injunction (most likely those with an interest in protecting Premier League rights – Sky and BT), while none of the others opposed it.
He also noted the perceived effectiveness of the injunction, noting that it has been “very effective” while failing to provide any information or data on how this conclusion has been reached.
UEFA injunction also back in force
In the wake of that decision, it is perhaps therefore unsurprising that a similar injunction secured by UEFA to cover European football has also been renewed.
It was Mr Justice Arnold again who proved the scourge of online pirates by signing off on the renewed order. Again, he noted the effectiveness of the First Order, which was secured by UEFA last season, without giving details. He also emphasised the lack of collateral damage caused by that former order.
The UEFA order applies to all European football streams, including both UEFA’s main continental competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as European domestic leagues and cup competitions.
Both the UEFA and Premier League injunctions do include a few small tweaks worth noting. The new orders expand the number of targeted streaming servers and also decrease the amount of time required to notify affected hosts. This is intended to prevent streams putting measures in place to circumvent the block.
Both injunctions are targeted largely at unofficial Kodi addons which have become a hugely popular way for fans to access live streams of matches without having to fork out exorbitant subscription fees for cable and satellite TV channels.
Premier League Executive Director targets VPNs too
But while Kodi may be popular, it is not the only way to access illegal streams of live football. There are countless websites which make live streams available too, as well as overseas broadcasters which make content available for free, and only protected by inefficient geo-blocking.
These streams can all be accessed with the help of a VPN, and this has not eluded the attention of the Premier League either. In a recent speech at the Westminster Media Forum, the Executive Director of the Premier League, William Bush, condemned both Kodi and VPNs.
“I’m not saying it can be eliminated, but to have websites which show you how to break the law, have social media supply content which shows you how to break the law, everything from Kodi boxes to how to get a VPN to circumvent paying subscriptions … they should be discouraged,” he said.
Many would say that the Premier League is its own worst enemy in many ways. Their obsession with money has seen their product hidden behind increasingly expensive subscription fees and ticket prices which are forcing many fans out of the game they love.
While some fans are turning to lower league and non-league football in search of a more genuine fan-friendly product, others are left with little option but to find streams they can afford to watch.
Watching football with a VPN
And unfortunately for Mr Bush, the genie is very much out of the bottle when it comes to accessing Premier League streams online.
The Premier League and UEFA injections will block illegal streams on Kodi and other platforms for UK-based internet users. But these blocks are easily evaded simply by connecting to a VPN server located outside the UK.
And as long as Premier League and UEFA games can be accessed for more reasonable prices overseas, again with the help of a VPN such as ExpressVPN or IPVanish, it is to be expected that fans feeling the pinch, will turn to these broadcasters as a solution.
It is wrong to advocate illegal streaming. But until the Premier League begins to prioritise its fans and make their product available more affordably, their use by many people is inevitable.