Football salaries threatened by illegal internet broadcasts

The Premier League has warned that illegal streaming of live football matches on the internet could hurt the league’s finances in the long-term.

The BBC reports that Premier League lawyer Oliver Weingarten said that, with up to 250,000 viewers watching single matches online for free, “The long term consequences for the game are that it has the potential to devalue or dilute the rights value, and in turn that will dilute the product that we are able to turn out and the quality of player coming to the league.”

The Premier League, along with rights-holders from other sports affected by the same problem have successfully taken joint legal action against five websites in the UK, and have a class action pending against Google and YouTube in the US. But Weingarten told the BBC that the group has found it difficult to shut down the sites for good.

“Once a site has stopped streaming it can set up another domain name, or the Internet Service Provider may be safe-harboured in a country where the laws don’t provide as much protection as we would like,” he said.

Weingarten said that a reduction in television rights fees could be coupled with falling gate receipts and matchday revenues if more fans stay at home to watch games for free, and the resulting impact on club finances could see less of the world’s top players attracted to the Premier League. However the BBC said that other top leagues, such as Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, were facing the same threat, and the result could be a fall in player salaries leading to a return to an era of more affordable football.

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