More than a third of Premier League football fans regularly watch matches via illegal online streams according to a new survey by BBC Radio 5 Live.
36 per cent of supporters polled admitted to streaming Premier League matches via unofficial providers at least once a month, with 22 per cent saying they used online streams at least once a week.
The extent of online viewership in top flight football comes as the Premier League attempts to crack down on illegal streams, after Sky and BT Sport paid a record £5.136 billion to show live Premier League football for three seasons.
As well as online streams, nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they used special technology such as piracy-enabled apps or ‘Kodi boxes’ to watch Premier League football live. Furthermore, over a tenth believed that it was not illegal to stream games via an unofficial provider.
A Premier League spokesperson told BBC Radio 5 Live that it would continue to “protect its copyright” by pursuing those who made games available online illegally.
“Fans should know that these pre-loaded boxes enable pirate broadcasts of Premier League football, and other popular content, and are illegal. People who supply them have been jailed or ordered to pay significant financial penalties,” the spokesperson said.
“We are increasingly seeing prominent apps and add-ons being closed down as the law catches up with them leading to consumers being out of pocket.
“The Premier League will continue to protect its copyright, and the legitimate investment made by its broadcasting partners. Their contribution allows our clubs to develop and acquire players, invest in facilities and support the wider football pyramid and communities – all things that fans enjoy and society benefits from.”
The most recent season saw the biggest drop in live Premier League viewing figures in seven years. In March the league launched a concerted anti-piracy campaign against suppliers of illegal streams and equipment; in April the European Court of Justice ruled that watching football online via Kodi boxes was illegal.
“People need to be aware that this is no longer a grey area, in fact it is very black and white,” said Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation against Copyright Theft (FACT). “If you are accessing content for free such as sport, TV and films for which you’d normally need a subscription, or go to the cinema, or buy a DVD, this is illegal.”
Market research company ComRes conducted the research on behalf of 5 Live, interviewing 1,000 Premier League fans between 7th and 15th March earlier this year. Listen to the full report on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday 4 July.