As a 20 year old football fan, I’ve been able to experience the revolution of the internet affecting football, and I recently asked myself the question, is illegal streaming a good thing for the game?
Back in the days before streaming, I was a user on the now defunct forum, soccerpulse.
Before I was able to get an internet plan that allowed streaming, and before my parents caved in to getting Foxtel, I relied on that for getting footage of goals 15 minutes after they happened.
I was incredibly grateful for the work that people did there, to provide highlights for matches that I was unable to see.
It originally started this way, then I started downloading the BBC Match of the Day highlights in order to get full exposure.
On the one hand, I felt some guilt, but I justified my activities because at my age, there was no other way to obtain such footage, and I couldn’t go into any pub to watch the games.
Before the world of streaming came so popular, my parents got Foxtel, and it was the greatest thing that happened to me with regards to football.
I was finally able to watch entire matches live, in a decent resolution, with English commentary. It was a godsend.
I even contributed to the forum I was once a part of, interrupting my own football watching enjoyment to put the goals on the internet.
However, as time wore on, I grew more mature and selfish in my views.
Why should I sacrifice my own time and money to give people access to footage for free? I understood when I was younger, but when I got older, I didn’t want to be a part of the free-rider effect.
There were many users on the forum from countries that couldn’t get access to the matches legally, and it is those people I feel sorry for, and who benefit the most from streaming.
However, now with streaming, for every “big” game, it is incredibly easy for anyone to gain access to streams of matches, in decent quality as well.
For followers of lesser teams, often streams are much lower quality with foreign commentary.
Even now, I am guilty of occasionally streaming from the internet, when the brilliant invention of Viewers Choice fails to show my beloved West Ham. It is a chore watching it on my computer, and I would much rather watch it on TV, because its simply a much more pleasing and full experience.
So, from these facts, I propose a new system for the Premier League to implement.
Make the matches (or even a select few) allowed to be streamed online officially. However, in doing so, the streams should be incredibly low resolution. Not so you can’t watch the match, but so that it is useful as a last resort, but nothing more.
The Premier League can then charge advertising revenue through the streams.
Because people are getting the game for free, they should have no qualms with adverts popping up on the bottom (or top) of the screen, and maybe even the odd product flashing on the screen when the ball goes out.
The “illegal” viewers in this case may tolerate such a stream, but ultimately, they will realise that it is an unpleasant experience to watch.
I would not trade watching the game on Foxtel for such a service, but it would assist in exposure for the league to audiences previously out of reach. And also gain them additional revenue.
The ones who are currently streaming and making money from the exercise at the moment would not be able to compete with an official stream.
Half the battle is finding a place to watch the match online, and unless they can offer high-quality streams (which would struggle on some internet plans), then they will simply cease to exist.