Investigator of illegal streaming crackdown admits no one is likely to be prosecuted for watching
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Fans who are illegally streaming Premier League (PL) games are unlikely to face prosecution, an investigator has said.
On Tuesday (30 May) five men were convicted of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and contempt of court after generating more than £7 million in five years by illegally streaming PL football matches.
Co-defendants Steven Gordon, Peter Jolley, William Brown and Christopher Felvus offered illegal access to matches from hundreds of channels around the world, as well as tens of thousands of on-demand films and TV shows.
A sixth gang member - Zak Smith - failed to appear at court for sentencing, and a warrant has since been issued for his arrest.
The PL, who privately prosecuted the gang, said the illegal streaming businesses had 30 employees, with one undercover at a specialist anti-piracy company.
However, according to an investigator who reportedly played a part in this week's prosecution, fans are unlikely to face prosecution for watching their football team.
"Investigations are going on all the time," Doug Love, Senior Trading Standards Officer at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
"This kind of crime has to be countered. If it was left unchecked, sports and society would not be recognisable.
"Consumers are committing an offence by watching the streams if they know they're illegal, but we're looking for distributors.
"I believe some individuals have been approached and given letters saying please stop using these streams, but no one is likely to be prosecuted just for watching."
Of the sentencing, PL general counsel, Kevin Plumb, said the crackdown has been 'the result of a long and complex prosecution of a highly sophisticated operation'.
“The sentences handed down, which are the longest sentences ever issued for piracy-related crimes, vindicate the efforts made to bring these individuals to justice and reflect the severity and extent of the crimes,” he said.
“This prosecution is another concrete example of the clear links between piracy and wider criminality, a warning we repeatedly make.
“While most PL fans enjoy watching our games in a safe way, those who were customers of these services were effectively supporting individuals involved in other sinister and dangerous organised crime.
“The PL’s substantial financial contribution to the entire football pyramid is made possible through the ability to sell our broadcast rights.
“We are pleased that through rulings such as this, the courts continue to show that they recognise the importance of safeguarding the PL’s rights.
“We will continue to protect our rights and our fans by investigating and prosecuting illegal operators at all levels.”