HomeSports13% of Maltese citizens access illegal online sources to watch sports

13% of Maltese citizens access illegal online sources to watch sports

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While Europe is the epicentre of all things sport in 2024 with both the UEFA Euro 2024 as well as the Olympic Games in Paris, an EUIPO study has found that 12% of EU citizens access or stream content from illegal sources to watch sports.

And when it comes to youngsters aged 15-24, more than a quarter (27%) admit to using illegal online channels to watch sports.

At least 13% of Maltese citizens accessed or streamed content from illegal online sources to watch sports, with 28% of youngsters aged 15-24 doing so, the EU Intellectual Property Office said.

4% of young Maltese from 15-24 years old knowingly purchased fake sports equipment online: fake sports equipment cost manufacturers €850 million per year, accounting for 11% of lost sales.

Illegal online streaming affects all types of content – including sporting events – and the EUIPO estimated that piracy across all media generates €1 billion in unlawful revenue annually.

Where there’s money and millions of spectators and consumers, there is opportunity for fraudsters to profit: live-event pirates use sophisticated techniques to bypass detection, often leveraging legitimate content distribution services.

Besides sports broadcasting, the EU sports equipment sector suffers from €850 million in lost sales per year according to the EUIPO, such as fake football shirts and knock-off sports shoes, which represent a significant portion of the overall estimated €12 billion of clothing counterfeits in Europe per year.

“If fans watch live sports events via illegal streams, the whole solidarity funding model of the Olympic movement is put in jeopardy,” said Emma Terho, chair of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission. “Media rights would lose their value, and the media rightsholders would stop acquiring media rights with huge ramifications for the solidarity-funding model of the whole Olympic movement.”

The EUIPO’s IP perception study revealed significant trends across the European Union related to the online piracy of live sports events, where 12% of the total population has accessed or streamed content from illegal online sources to watch sports.

Bulgaria is where this practice is most common in the EU with 21% of total respondents admitting they had used illegal online sources to watch sports, followed by Greece (20%), Ireland (19%), Spain (19%) and Luxembourg (18%).

Younger citizens age d15-24 reported illegally accessing sporting events online at twice the rate of the total population, according to the study. Bulgarian youth are most likely to engage in illicit sports streaming with 47%, well above the EU average of 27%, followed by Spain (42%) and Greece (42%), Slovenia (39%) and Ireland (34%).

According to the EUIPO’s study on online copyright infringement, streaming is the most popular method to access illicit TV content – 58% of piracy in the EU occurs via streaming and 32% through download.

Counterfeit sporting goods valued at €850 million

According to the EUIPO’s Intellectual Property and Youth Scoreboard, an average of 10% of EU youth age 15-24 admit to purchasing fake sporting equipment intentionally, with it being most common among Greek youngsters – 18% of whom had done so. Conversely, 7% of young European consumers have bought counterfeit items by accident.

The impact of these counterfeit sales in the EU is substantial, causing an estimated total loss of €851 million annually – equivalent to 11% of the total sales in the sector – according to EUIPO calculations.

France, Austria, and the Netherlands experience the highest monetary losses, amounting to hundreds of millions of euro each. In terms of proportional impact, Romania, Lithuania, and Hungary suffer the most, with counterfeit sports equipment accounting for up to 20% of total lost sales in each country.

Fake goods also pose serious health risks to consumers and do not comply with European health, safety, and environmental protection standards. 

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