Football and the Social World

I’ve blogged before about where the law and practical reality are far apart when it comes to the subject of social media.

This caught my eye this morning on the same topic.

The Premier League are warning fans that posting videos of goals via Vine, Instagram and the like is illegal and breaks copyright law.

Now I know very little about football, and care less about finding out. However, I did a little Googling about how many people are actually interested in watching grown men run up and down a bit of green turf kicking some round leather. It turns out, quite a lot. Who’d of thought it?

Take the final weekend of last season, just for league games. Apparently, there were 36 fixtures that weekend, and over 430,000 tickets were sold. Now let’s assume that about half of those attending have a smart phone, which is line with the general population statistics. Then let us further assume that just 1% of those who have a smart phone, want to snap a quick video and share it on twitter. That is over 2000 potential shares via the social media of the supporter’s choice. In just one weekend. My figures are imprecise but you get the point.

According to the Director of Communications at the Premier League they don’t want to be killjoys. But they are looking at how they can develop technologies to stop it. Good luck with that.

Let’s look at this practically. 500 million tweets sent every day. 1.1 billion Facebook users globally. Over 100 million people using Instagram every month. 40 million registered Vine users.

Whatever your view on copyright law, whatever the statute book and the case law might say… exactly how can this ever be effectively policed? How can you find every Vine, every Tweet, every Instagram picture in the vast, global, social world in which we live? That assumes that the social media platforms will even play ball (no pun intended).

And even if you can, what is it really achieving anyway? Most of those football supporters that share something socially are going to have a very small follower base in real terms. Unless they happen to catch Rooney (whoever he is) doing the world’s most awesome touchdown (?) and subsequently going viral, then it isn’t going to have that much reach in any event. And if you really want to watch a full game, then catching a poor quality 6 second vine won’t discourage many from buying the full Sky package.

So what we have is something that is technically illegal, but a law that will almost be impossible to enforce, and will surely be largely ignored. The Premier League appear to be fighting a losing battle. Social is just too big. How we communicate has fundamentally changed. It’s just that everyone hasn’t figured that out yet.

Time for a rethink?

Note to readers: this will probably be my only ever post about football. Which is probably a good thing.

9 thoughts on “Football and the Social World

  1. One word to sum up the Premier League’s approach here. Well two. Fucking Daft. Sorry about that. but it is plain and simple madness. If they wanted to encourage MORE use of this they just did. Instead find the pubs with hacked Sky dishes showing games illegally or whatever but fans with phones is Effing Daft. Own goal, whatever. Out of touch with reality and they should be made a laughing stock.

    Turkish Government banning twitter anyone?

    The law is an ass. In this instance, a 6-second ass to more pointless policy making.

    • Thanks for commenting Perry. I was reminded of something I read once about soap operas. Years ago they’d do anything to ensure the plot lines didn’t leak. Then a story line got out – Corrie if memory serves – and although they’d always assumed that viewing figures would go down if that happened they actually went up massively. So maybe they need to look at it from an entitle different perspective. The old ways don’t apply in our social and open world.

  2. As with a lot of these types of organisation being over protective with their brand. The thing is people posting short clips showing their excitement and joy at being at a game is probably the best advertisement they can possibly get.

    People recording parts of sporting fixtures isn’t a threat to TV or individual football clubs brands. They are never going to replace the live or recorded football matches on tv, The quality that tv cameras have and the expertise of the camera operator is never going to be challenged by a fan or two using a smart phone.

    This is an own goal as Perry has already stated. As for looking at technologies that will prevent it that is going to be next to impossible, I don’t believe the technology exist and developing it will be out of the reach of the Premier League.

    • I think this is the reason for it though Mark – the brand. If you take the likes of the Sun mobile app that charges users to view goals first, that monetisation and revenue stream will dry up, especially if the buyers of the content are in a position to say ‘Why should we pay you all this money to have the exclusive content, when it’s on Vine before you can even let us have it’

      I think it’s a reaction to try and sure up the rights, but that’s the problem – those that would pirate, will always find a way to circumvent the technology anyway. Like Gem says though, give me the full HD package any day.

  3. It’s madness. Encourage people to take part and be part of the community not command and control right? Wrong. The people’s game is ruled by complicated television rights. They HATE it when highlights end up on You Tube. Where do you draw the line? Everything has to be paid for which is why I have cancelled my EPL online subscription this year (the only way you can watch live English football now on NZ screens). Screw em.

  4. An interesting contrast in approach- at the same time as this story emerged, there was a similar one announcing that Manchester United were banning fans from bringing tablets (though not smartphones) into the ground to prevent them doing the same thing. While during the close season I was surveyed by Manchester City, asking me questions like whether I would be interested in accessing content on my tablet while at the match (e.g. goal rep!ays), whether I’d pay a premium for it or expect it to be included in ticket price etc. Which one has the more sensible attitude to social media, I wonder?

    • Thanks Simon – interesting differences in response. Much like employers – you can try and control the uncontrollable by banning access, or embrace it and make it work for you.

  5. Control the airwaves and you control the audience’s spending power. Our licence to show means our ability to be paid is a million miles away from some type open sourced footballing approach. It will continue to be cat and mouse and technology outpaces it but it’s a greedy big business now and far removed from the community ideal I was brought up on sadly so no great surprise. More football please. I like (thumbsup)

  6. Interesting post. Never say never; you may well post about football again!

    Have to say this is not just about football. We were proud in Leeds to have recently hosted the Grand Depart for the Tour de France. Much planning went into the event and there were strict guidelines on the use of the official TdF branding. That’s fair enough, it’s a brand.

    However, the day before the cyclists set off from Leeds we received the final social media protocol suggesting what messages our various official organisational accounts might like to use to help inform the public about progress of the convoy of vehicles and the peleton, as we now know is the name for the main group of cyclists. Very helpful the protocol was actually.

    Helpful, until we saw the line ‘No photos of the cyclists are permitted to be shown by any of the accounts’. Really? I queried this as people like a post with a photo in it. The response came back. Only permitted if it is incidental to the main purpose of the photograph. – Incidental!!

    Months, years even, of planning and it is suggested the cyclists are apparently an incidental part of the Tour de France. To who? Not the folk who are waiting to see them.

    So how do you determine ‘incidental’? You can’t. What about retweets? and what about crowd sourced photos where people pin their interpretation of what the TdF meant to them.

    I suppose it was aimed at protecting the official media partner rights. However horses for courses and a modicum of common sense is needed; unfortunately something often forgotten when ‘control’ rather than coordination is the main objective. Councils, public transport and other public sector and emergency service organisations are not really in a position to compete for sports media coverage which might reduce media income.

    As other folk commenting have said. Not manageable.

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