Pubs in Sunderland risk facing legal action from the Premier League by showing illegal streams of football matches.
It is illegal for pubs to show football matches between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays under a blanket ban by the FA Premier League to protect grass roots football and encourage higher attendances at matches.
Yet many pubs use foreign satellite decoders to receive broadcasts from abroad without paying TV subscription fees, which is also an infringement of copyright for the matches which is held in the UK by specific channels, such as Sky.
The owner of a Sunderland bar, which regularly advertises its ability to show Premier league fixtures, wishes to remain unnamed but argued that TV subscriptions are expensive for local bars in the current economic climate.
They said: “The costs of running a place like this are high enough already without having to pay a ridiculous amount a month for channels that we can so easily get for free from abroad.”
An employee of one of Sunderland’s popular pub chains, who also wished to be unnamed, pointed out that they broadcast football matches within the law and pay for their TV subscription.
They added: “I think its unfair that other pubs and bars in the area are showing more games than us without paying for it. They take away the customers that we deserve having paid for matches properly, as well as taking money from the clubs who would be getting higher attendances for games that shouldn’t be televised.”
The majority of offending pubs, as many as 5000 across the country, have been issued with warning letters from the Media Protection Services, who have been hired on behalf of the Premier league to investigate the offending pubs.
They have been threatened with prosecution if they are caught again, and the North East has been identified as a key area to target.
However, many pubs in the region continue to broadcast the illegal streams in the hope that it will draw in punters and improve business.
Matty Booth, 42, a Sunderland AFC season ticket holder, points out that his club are losing out from illegal broadcasting.
He said: “I disagree with pubs showing these streams, it severely lowers attendances. I actually spoke to the chairman Niall Quinn about this subject a couple of seasons ago, and he agreed to go into local bars to request that they stop showing the games, and as a gesture gave them a certain number of tickets to give to customers.”
However, yt would appear that these actions have failed to stamp down on the broadcasts.