Streaming iFollow Illegally? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

I’ve waited a little before putting this out, and with a half-decent reason.

I often get accused of parroting official club rhetoric, which I find frustrating, and I knew if I commented on this issue in the immediate aftermath, it would be picked up on and used as a stick to beat me. I wasn’t going to comment at all, but I thought of a good point while washing up early, so I thought I’d put it out there.

Last month, released board minutes suggested the loss of iFollow revenue could impact our ability to move in this transfer window. We’re not talking about a loss of revenue through poor service but streaming from dodgy firesticks, which is what people who do not want to feel like criminals like to call illegal sticks that steal television. I should know because, for a short time before Christmas, I had such a stick – gifted to me by someone who had got a new one and had a bit of time left on their previous one.

Did I use it to watch Lincoln City? Read on to find out.

Disclaimer – I say ‘you’ a lot here, as if all readers are stealing iFollow feeds. My apologies for that; I don’t for one second think that’s the case. However, it was easier to address this directly to those who do.

Club Stance

The club’s official statement was that “iFollow is performing significantly below budget. It is believed this is largely due to sheer volume of illegal streaming that now takes place, including being widely advertised at a range of public venues.” They added, “The significant loss of iFollow revenue and other factors impacting the loss for the season will, however, restrain any ability to manoeuvre in the window.”

This was met with some debate, and I’ve seen it as recently as this week derided. Those who wish to be critical of Jez and Liam, grouped together as some sort of villainous double act, point to them being the bad guys, and iFollow revenue being a side point. It isn’t.

The Implication

The key word in that statement is ‘budget’. The club budget for a certain figure to come in from iFollow, and at present, that figure is not being met. That means the budget overall is down, which impacts spending. If you’re in doubt as to the figures, think of it like this – 25 games a season on iFollow (23 in the league, likely two in the EFL Trophy). Let’s assume the usual buy for those games is around 1,000 – that’s 25,000 buys over the season. Now, the club (I believe) makes £8 per game from that (I could be wrong) – that’s £200,000. If 50% of people are streaming illegally, then the club would be losing £100,000 from the budget, purely through lost iFollow revenue.

Those figures are rudimentary, I grant you. I don’t know the exact buys, and there are people who stream home games rather than attending, plus buys from abroad, so the numbers really are only there for a rough guide. Yes, I know the club projects to lose £3m per year, but that’s not purely on the football side, and £100,000 would not be a drop in the ocean.

Plus, £100,000 per season would be maybe £2,000 per week for a player? Admittedly not a top earner, but the club only said the ability to manoeuvre would be affected, not a major purchase or loan deal. Put it another way – a loan between now and May would be for five months so that the lost iFollow revenue would equate to perhaps £5k a week? That’s a big loan.

Why Stream?

‘But football’s too expensive’, scream those who have a dodgy stick. ‘You just can’t get all of the football now, and times are hard’. Is that a defence? Times are hard, so you’ll steal? I’m not sure it is. Times might be hard, and I like steak, so if I can’t afford steak, should I just steal it from the shop as justification? Is that really an excuse for thieving from your football club, the club you claim to love? I’m not sure it is.

I might be splitting hairs, but I see a difference between streaming the latest Premier League game from a faceless corporation and grabbing £10 from your football club, the one whose badge you have tattooed on your skin, the one that you claim to love. Again, to use an analogy, if you were starving, would you rather steal the steak from Tesco or pinch £10 from your Mum’s purse to buy it? Why would you ever rob the ones you love?

I also hear the defence ‘but the product is rubbish, so why should we pay £10 a time?’. Well, if the product is rubbish, why steal it in the first place? Why watch at all? Blaming the quality of the football is only marginally worse than defending yourself by saying football is too expensive in the cost of living crisis. It’s justifying theft to yourself, and whilst you might feel better about what you do because of it, the honest shout is that you shouldn’t. Heroin addicts (come at me, Twitter) justify stealing from anyone and everyone to feed their habit, but does it make it right? No. Maybe Liam had a point using that analogy in his recent post on Vitals.

Finally, let me ask you this. When club staff members have been convicted of stealing from the club, did you defend them? No, there was widespread indignation, anger and foaming at the mouth. The names of those responsible barely get uttered today, and even going back 20 years, those convicted of theft from the club are still vilified by many. How contradictory and hypocritical, then, to justify thieving £10 a game via an iFollow stream only to condemn anyone who has stolen more. Is there a threshold on value? A limited to how much you can steal from the club before it becomes unacceptable? Your £10 per week throughout the season is okay because the football is poor, but any more than that, and we should burn at the stake?

I’m Not Preaching

Finally, back to a throwaway comment I made at the top of the piece. Before Christmas, I was given a stick. It was mainly because season seven of The Blacklist wasn’t on the usual channels I sub to (Amazon and Netflix), and someone did me a good turn. ‘You can get all of the football’, they said. Ace, right?

At first, sure. I confess I watched a bit of Southampton one night; then I strayed into watching an iFollow feed (Chelsea kids and Northampton, I think). Lincoln played around the same time, and I thought, ‘I can save myself ten quid here’.

Never again. The guilt got to me within about 15 minutes, and I ordered iFollow halfway through the game (Orient, the abandoned fixture). I’ve pirated stuff in my life; taped CDs from mates, and then copied video games. I’ve even had a few cracked versions of different applications, such as Photoshop. Why? Because it always felt victimless. Polydor made their money anyway, as did EA Sports, so me knocking a couple of discs off wasn’t going to hurt anyone. I suppose that’s why people do it with Sky, etc.

I’d sat on Supporter’s Board meetings where I heard the impact of iFollow theft, and yet here I was, sitting right where I am now, watching an illegal stream of the club I love. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as guilty and I broke before the first 15 minutes were up. In fact, since finishing the Blacklist a week or so later, I haven’t turned the stick on.

Streaming Lincoln on iFollow isn’t victimless. You’re literally stealing from the football club, the same football club you then get angry at for pointing it out. It’s not really on, is it? Should it matter whether you think £10 isn’t enough, or that someone at the club you have a personal vendetta against might get paid a decent salary? No, of course, it shouldn’t. Deep down, you know that.

Prepares tin hat for social media backlash…..