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Tackling online piracy to protect player employment and career opportunities

25 May 2021
FIFPRO welcomes the decision by the European Parliament to crack down on illegal broadcasting of live sporting events.

Last Wednesday, following the adoption of the European Parliament’s resolution on ‘Challenges of sport events’ organisers in the digital environment’, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called on the Commission to improve the current EU framework on intellectual property rights for live sport events.

FIFPRO Director of Global Policy and Strategic Relations Alexander Bielefeld said: “Effective measures against online piracy protect workers, including professional footballers, and help create a more sustainable industry. This impacts the stability of player contracts as well as revenue distribution. Player salaries, general employment conditions as well as player education and career transitioning programmes directly depend on broadcasting revenues in domestic markets.”

FIFPRO has been actively advocating - in collaboration with the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), which includes more than 50 sports bodies worldwide, including FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League and La Liga - for an improved EU framework to ensure the immediate removal or disabling of online access to illegal live sport events. This unauthorized content breaches the fundamental workers’ and commercial rights and withholds significant revenues from the sports industry. The value of broadcasting rights is a vital driver for the professional game.

As the collective voice of professional football players, FIFPRO must raise the attention of policymakers to the fact that illegal streaming of content creates adverse effects on the opportunities of our members to stable employment, education and career transitioning services.

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One of the main measures the European Parliament is asking for is the immediate removal of illegal content, such as livestreams of sporting events. These should be taken down within 30 minutes of being notified. Current regulations do not provide adequate remedies, meaning that unauthorized livestreams are removed or blocked too late.

SROC Chairman Mark Lichtenhein reacted to the European Parliament’s decisive vote, saying: “This is the first time that we have had serious acknowledgement, at European level, of the piracy issues that affect sport and its athletes. The resolution clearly recognises that nearly all the value in sports events is in their live transmission and that - critically - infringing content has to be removed immediately, if sports piracy is to be addressed effectively.”

FIFPRO now calls on the European Commission to follow the European Parliament’s recommendations and to introduce binding targeted legislation. Both the context and expected timeframe of the proposed Digital Services Act are out of scope to provide the necessary solutions. Particularly in this current challenging period of reduced revenues, the sector urgently needs specific and efficient remedies as piracy continues to undermine the stability of player contracts and the viability of the funding and solidarity mechanisms of the game.