Illegal English Premier League football streaming gang jailed

Brentford's Spanish goalkeeper David Raya dives, but fails to save the opening goal by Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Brentford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on May 20, 2023. — AFP

LONDON: Five men in the UK who illegally streamed English Premier League football matches to tens of thousands of people were jailed on May 30, the league announced.

Members of the gang received prison terms ranging from three to 11 years each after the Premier League brought what it said was “the world’s largest-ever prosecution of an illegal streaming network”.

The defendants, aged between 30 and 46, raked in more than £7mil (RM39.96mil or US$8.7mil) selling subscriptions to three illegal platforms streaming to over 50,000 customers and resellers.

“The organisations offered illegal access to watch Premier League matches, hundreds of channels from around the world and tens of thousands of on-demand films and TV shows,” the Premier League said in a statement.

The gang’s “mastermind”, Mark Gould, 36, was sentenced to 11 years in jail at Chesterfield Justice Centre, in central England.

The remaining four received sentences ranging from three to more than five years.

The private prosecution was supported by the trading standards team at Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London and the intellectual property protection organisation FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft).

“Today’s sentencing is the result of a long and complex prosecution of a highly sophisticated operation,” Premier League general counsel Kevin Plumb said.

“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.”

The gang, which relied on dozens of employees, profited by offering live access to Premier League games otherwise unavailable in the UK due to so-called “blackout” broadcasting rules.

It accessed feeds from broadcasters in the UK, Qatar, the United States, Australia and Canada and streamed them a few seconds later.

The operation developed mobile phone and online apps screening Premier League matches and other content.

England’s Premier League is the most lucrative football league in the world, with the UK broadcast rights alone worth about £5bil (RM28.54bil) for the 2022 to 2025 seasons. – AFP

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