Football Column – EPL IPR OG

Football Column – EPL IPR OG: Man Utd ban tablets & laptops, the Premier League ban vines but the memorable moment of the opening weekend was viral footage.

Last Friday, on the eve of the new Premier League season, a Premier League spokesman said it would be clamping down on unofficial footage posted online while in the same sentence plugging that content would be available at a price from two brands of a global newsgroup. While it is reasonable the Premier League want to protect the value of the intellectual property rights they auction off, their comments actually go further than worrying about pirate streaming and copies of replayed goals – they also object to the paying punter sharing footage they have captured themselves.

Now, while it is always worrying that people go to a match yet are sometimes more concerned in capturing it on a mobile device than actually watching the game or even participating in an atmosphere they want to record, they often grab and share a perspective no-one else, including rights holders, do.

This is isn’t exclusive to football; when the Tour de France came to Britain last month, anyone who uses social media would have seen countless view points that would haven’t been seen by any other means. And just this weekend, the most memorable incident of the Premier League weekend came via footage from a fan at West Ham, who recorded a spectator running onto the pitch and hitting the target from a free kick without breaking stride while being chased by a steward. It was surely the image of the Twitter weekend, even accounting for what was posted from Ian Botham’s account.

If the bending of the dead ball (at West Ham rather than the non-Direct Message) had happened in front if ITV Sport cameras in the ’70s or ’80s it would have been shown in the game’s highlights on The Big Match, then celebrated by Brian Moore ahead of the letters from the public segment and then been part of the opening titles for the rest of the season. Now, in the sanitised version the Premier League wants to show to the world, it didn’t make Match of the Day, and real reportage came from a recording mobile device who posted it on social media, rather than a paying rights holder who would have had the official footage.

A previous West Ham-Tottenham Hotspur fixture from Upton Park, the final game of the 2006 season, is another reminder of how the Premier League mishandle their authority, clumsily pushing away the hands that feed them rather than their intended aim of stamping out property thieves. On that occassion the away allocation was vastly overly subscribed but the League refused Tottenham’s request to show the game on screens at White Hart Lane, despite Premier League rights holders opting not to show the match live. It was an act that benefitted no-one and showed an organisation out of touch with their loyal customers.

The League could go further. Manchester United recently announced a ban on laptops and tablet devices, under the catch-all fear of security, which won’t just be an inconvenience to thousand that commute long distances by public transport to go to Old Trafford, it will surely affect the attendance of many on evening games after work.

That ban and the intense control on the “product” shown to the masses, as highlighted by Richard Scudamore last week, comes across as disproportionate and self-defeating. And as the Old Trafford ban will directly have an adverse affect on its core constituents, it may be what a tabloid might refer to as “an own goal”. Mobile devices and apps are sold to consumers with a selling point of capturing moments and instantly sharing them. Stopping rogue streaming and pirate recordings of TV is one thing, trying to black out viral third-eyes is surely doomed to failure. (If it isn’t, they’ll be claiming our memories as their property next.)


Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents the escape of travelling to watch sport. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

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