Cost of watching football: how it’s driving fans to potential harm

  • No date issued regarding return of fans to stadiums
  • Cost of viewing football on television continues to rise says supporter
  • Leading to many people illegaly streaming events, putting them at risk

With the news that football fans will not be allowed back into the grounds, the only means of watching the sport will be at home.

Pilot events last month saw 1,000’s of people return to selected lower league stadiums to watch the game in person, but with the Covid-19 pandemic worsening in the country, the trials had to be postponed.

This leaves the enjoyment of the game being experienced behind a screen.

Image of empty football ground seats
Football grounds are empty around the country due to Covid restrictions

Football in England is broadcasted on a number of channels with Sky Sports showing a large portion of top flight and lower league games in Britain and also screen selected national and international cup competitions.

BT Sport cover an array of domestic football matches and exclusively show the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League as well as the Bundesliga in Germany.

In the past couple of years, streaming giant Amazon jumped into the mix, and is broadcasting 20 games throughout the festive period.

With the amount of subscriptions required to experience a full footballing calendar, the cost of viewing it all does not come cheap for the average fan.

For a new customer to purchase a Sky Sports package, it would cost £46 a month for an 18-month contract, with an additional £13 a month for access to BT Sports channels under their latest deal.

Sky and BT Sport also offer singular passes for its customers.

You can buy a daily Sky Sports pass for £9.99 or a monthly pass for £33.99 with BT Sport supplying a monthly sporting pass for £25 a month.

Without a contract, fans are looking at forking out nearly £60 a month to view football in their homes.

On top of this, many clubs are supplying streams of their matches on their website which comes at a cost of £10 for non-season ticket holders.

With the introduction of Pay-Per-View football matches coming to our screens, where you can watch British football matches not shown on Sky and BT Channels for an added cost of near £15, the price to consume football will rise further.

Embed from Getty Images Last weeks fixture between Manchester United vs Newcastle was Pay-per-view.

Less than ten years ago, terrestrial television was the home for coverage of domestic cup competitions and the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

Over the years, most of these competitions have been moved to paid for subscription services.

A lot of criticism has been aimed towards the hike in prices, yet the quality of the product has been said to not match it.

Sky Sports has lost rights to broadcast leagues such as La Liga in Spain and BT has lost its Seria A coverage rights over the last few years.

Premier Sports are broadcasting La Liga games free of charge for Sky Sports customers until mid-October but with an additional charge of £9.99 a month if you want to carry on watching.

The coverage of international leagues available in the United Kingdom has reduced a great deal in a number of years, with added channels needed to view them.

The cost of viewing football in the United Kingdom is far apart than the cost of watching other sports around the world.

For example, the UFC provide a fight pass in the United States for £71.99 a year, which included all non Pay-per-view events and hundreds of hours of bonus content.

Similarly, the NBA offer a yearly game pass in the United States and other regions, with its highest tier coming in at £180.

Football may be the world’s most watched sport, with the Premier League seen as the frontrunner in terms of quality and excitement, but the price difference is an issue.

The gap between prices of football for viewers in the United Kingdom and other global sports in different countries such as NBA and UFC are staggering.  

As fans cannot return to the stands, match going supporters have been left to enjoy the football fixtures at home. Bradley Pargeter, a regular attendee at the Etihad Stadium, gave his thoughts on the current situation:

“I don’t understand why fans, even a small percentage of them, can’t go and watch the football as it’s an open space, if they all keep their distance.

“As we can’t go to the football, the fans have literally got no choice but to pay the prices Sky and BT are charging, there’s too many channels offering football which is costing far too much as it is.

“I do think the prices are far too expensive, and even if you are paying, you might not even see your own team play, Carabao Cup holders Manchester City weren’t even shown on TV, in the last cup match against Burnley.

“If fans feel like they’re being priced out of football I’m not surprised people are finding other ways of watching it.”

People are finding other means of watching football, and it isn’t lawful.

Illegal streaming of football matches has become a huge industry online, with people flocking to unofficial services to watch their favourite team in action.

Users provide a broadcast for the latest games around the world for a fraction or no price at all.

The source of the match may be legit but the rebroadcast of it is illegal.

Official broadcasters will see none of the money that would have been generated, with the money going to the people who are hosting the domain.

On paper, the temptation of watching football for very cheap might seem appealing, but the implications can be devastating.

The issue with these links is that they more than often lead you to websites that can do a lot of harm.

Many sites are attached with dangerous malware, which could get access to a lot of personal information on your device.

These criminals could use this information for a range of illicit practices such as fraud and identity theft.

Social media sites have become a haven for these links.

A simple search of a football team whilst they are playing will display hundreds of URLs claiming to show these games free of charge.

Instant highlights of goals are published onto these sites as soon as the ball has hit the back of the net in some cases.

Image of phone with Twitter logo
Social media has become the hub for illegal streams


Football fans maybe be unaware of the risks involved by clicking these links, but they could see themselves in trouble as producing or viewing illegal streams is a criminal offence.

According to The Industry Trust, nearly one third of people (29%) who illegally accessed content online was infected with a virus, malware or ransomware, an increase of 14% since December 2019. 

Football supporters were also recently warned by The National Security Centre (NCSC) to stream football through legitimate sources as subscription accounts had been compromised via hackers.

Almost 700,000 accounts were hacked as hackers guessed the passwords to accounts linked to the user’s favourite football team.

The malware was present on sites that offered said illegal streams.

Lockdown restrictions earlier in the year has saw an increase in online piracy as according to FACT UK, leaders in intellectual property protection, with illegal streaming of films had trebled in that timeframe.

With a busy footballing schedule coming up, plus the impending closure of pubs in parts of the country, the rate of illegal streaming could rise even further.

Emily Brett, PR & Communications Officer at FACT UK, highlights the impact of illegal streaming on people’s livelihoods:

“The impact of illegal streaming on rights holders is significant. Illegal streaming is theft and it takes money from broadcasters and rights holders that generate jobs and pay taxes.

“People often think that major broadcasters won’t miss payments here and there because they can afford it, but piracy puts people’s jobs at risk and has a long-term impact for future content creation.

 “By not paying for content fairly, illegal consumers restrict the ability for future production.”

Football supporters have a decision to make.

Clubs more than ever need support to keep them alive. The support from its own streaming services are essential to keep the floodlights running in the ground as many clubs around the country are facing serious hardships.

Streaming these games from illegitimate sources would be doing a lot of damage to these clubs, as they would see none of the money generated.

The monumental risks of illegal streaming should be a deterrent to many, as the threats it possesses could have serious implications on themselves and people in the broadcast industry.

The only way you can watch a football match legally and risk free is through official broadcasters.

On the other hand, If the costs of watching football continues to rise, the consumption of football will become unobtainable for many, as individuals simply will not be able afford it. 

With the Pay-Per-View channels being introduced, a monthly cost of viewing football will become eyewatering with fans potentially having their heads turned by cheaper and prohibited ways of watching the beautiful game.

It’s time for the broadcasters to come together and try to find a compromise, as there are far too many channels providing different services to watch football.