Scottish football ponders action against Periscope broadcasts

An estimated 100,000 viewers were able to watch a Scottish Cup replay between Hibs and Hearts despite no television network broadcasting the match. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
An estimated 100,000 viewers were able to watch a Scottish Cup replay between Hibs and Hearts despite no television network broadcasting the match. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
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It’s one of the most popular live video streaming apps on the smartphone market, created with a vision of allowing activists around the world to film political demonstrations in real time.

But Periscope can also be used to illegally broadcast sporting events - something football fans are taking increasing advantage of.

A Scottish Cup fifth round replay between Hibs and Hearts in February was watched by an estimated online audience of more than 100,000 despite the game not being shown by any television network.

Such is the app’s simplicity that any fan at a match with a smartphone and a decent vantage point can begin live streaming in a matter of minutes.

And it’s not just top flight games or city derbies that are attracting audiences on Periscope.

A recent midweek Hibs v Morton Championship match - the type of fixture never likely to be broadcast by a mainstream television network - attracted more than 2,000 viewers across several Periscope streams.

The habit of “Periscoping” games has spread across leagues far beyond Scotland and as yet there has been no European-wide clampdown.

But the Scottish footballing authorities are taking the issue seriously.

While television broadcast revenues north of the border are a fraction of what the English Premier League commands, there is no mood to antagonise vital commercial partners unnecessarily.

An SPFL spokesman said: “Any method such as this whereby content is illegally captured and then shared only damages clubs and ultimately supporters too.

“This issue is in no way unique to Scottish football and we know from speaking to counterparts across Europe that it is being monitored by league bodies around the world.

“At a time when the SPFL is continuing to work tirelessly to generate the best possible broadcast and commercial deals for the benefit of our 42 clubs, it’s imperative that we continue to protect our intellectual property.”

READ MORE: The rise of live-streaming app Periscope

The Scotsman understands discussions have taken place at SPFL level about how best to discourage fans from filming at matches.

At this stage, the responsibility falls to individual clubs. Stewards who spot fans filming will ask them to desist, with the threat of ejection if ignored.

Half-time announcements warning against Periscoping have also been made at several grounds in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the English football authorities have threatened to ban any supporter caught covertly filming matches.

The Premier League made the announcement after a Manchester City fan was found to have attracted more than 139,000 viewers after broadcasting an entire FA Cup game against Crystal Palace from inside Selhurst Park in February.

The City fan, Josh Chambers, told The Times: “I mainly did it for my dad because he couldn’t make it to the game so I thought I would try Periscope and see how it worked as the game was televised.

“I also thought there would be other people trying to watch the game as well.

“I am not sure what the rules are but I wasn’t too worried about getting into trouble.

“I hadn’t done it before but it seemed like an obvious thing to use Periscope for.

“I would do it again if I thought that’s what people wanted.”