The sports industry needs new laws to stop illegal streaming of sports footage so that it can fulfil its role in helping to fund grass-roots sport, a major European sport policy conference has been told.
Mark Lichtenhein, the chairman of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition of more than 50 sports bodies from around the world, said research showed that the market in pirated match action was now so large that it was now nearly half the size of the legitimate sport content market. He argued that sport ‘at the top of the pyramid’ needed the means to ensure illegal audio-visual content was taken down from digital platforms within 15 minutes of it being spotted.
Lichtenhein said: ‘It’s about the value of sport and the protection of that value. The thing which binds all our members is protection of our intellectual property; this is what defines the way in which we make money and the benefits of sport. So the defence of the mechanism to enable us to do that, the protection of our intellectual property, is absolutely key.’
He was speaking at the EU Sport Forum in Lille, France on a panel, moderated by Sophie Kwasny, Head of Sport Division at the Council of Europe which defends and promotes democracy, the rule of law and human rights, including in the sport context. Lichtenhein said sport was taking many measures to improve integrity in sport in relation to fighting hate-speech, improving governance and dealing with safeguarding. But, he said, there were external integrity issues such as match-fixing and unlawful use of match footage, particularly when associated with gambling. Sport needed to be compensated for the costs of ensuring integrity in competitions, as happened in France through agreements with betting operators.
‘But the most important thing right now is really how we can protect and maintain the ability to provide funding for grass roots; nothing more important than the fight against digital piracy and have some sort of legislation in place to do that. What’s unique about sport compared with other sectors is that the value of sport is very much concentrated in the live experience. So for anyone trying to steal that value it is a relatively easy process to do very quickly – and you have to react very quickly. Right now we don’t have the necessary legal instruments to be able to do that, to react swiftly, in 15 minutes of an illegal theft of audio-visual content being transmitted’.
The forum was attended by hundreds of delegates from European governmental institutions, sports organisations, sports ministries, European member state presidency representatives – and the News Media Coalition. The annual forum was this year hosted by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture.
The News Media Coalition, which safeguards news reporting including sports coverage, has argued for public policymakers to take care to ensure any measures aimed at curbing digital piracy of live sport footage do not impact negatively on legitimate news sites operations. See here for more information.