Is it illegal to film and share your own football highlights?

Posted on February 5, 2019


With broadcasting rights of football matches being so keenly protected, social media sites like YouTube are usually very quick to pull any unofficial videos of high-profile matches that get uploaded. If an incident happens in a game and you want to see it, you will often find that it’s been uploaded to YouTube before the game has even finished, but you might also find that it’s been wiped by the time you’ve clicked through to it.

That doesn’t stop people going to great lengths to capture match footage. In 2015, a man was arrested for filming several Premier League matches via a drone, although his offence was contravening Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules rather than anything to do with recording football.

People who compromise safety in order to film football footage obviously have to be dealt with, but what about ordinary fans who just want to capture their experience at the game and share it with others. Are they doing anything wrong?

YouTube is full of videos of fans – usually in their teens or early twenties – who like to do just that. The above Chester FC fan, teenager Rio Doherty, has found himself the subject of discussion on the club’s unofficial forum Deva Chat because he has apparently been asked to stop making videos like the above that show gantry-level highlights of Chester matches bookended by his pre- and post-match thoughts. Reactions to this among fans range from “what’s the club doing?”, to “rules are rules”, and several viewpoints in between.

So let’s deal with “rules are rules” and look at which rule is being broken here. It’s condition 3.6 of the English Football League’s (EFL) Ticketing Terms & Conditions, which says:

“Mobile telephones are permitted within the Ground, provided that they are used for personal and private use only. For the avoidance of doubt no material captured may be published or otherwise made available to any third parties including, without limitation, via social networking sites.”

Chester are in the National League rather than the EFL, but the rule is also paraphrased in the National League Ground Regulations, which can be found on Southport FC’s site (rule 15).

The rule is pretty clear – fans should not be filming match footage and putting it on social media, and clubs are entitled to eject anyone who does it, so clubs cannot be blamed for simply following rules. What is less clear is how exactly this rule can be enforced and why it is necessary.

Note that the regulation does not state that filming footage is an offence in itself. This means that a club has no right to instruct a supporter to stop filming, but what a steward could do is ask them why they are filming. If they reply that they are a vlogger and want to share their game highlights online, they must be told to stop. If they say they just want to record it for posterity and their own personal viewing, there is no problem.

If the individual who recorded the footage went on to share it on YouTube, Twitter or any other social media site, though, a breach of the Ground Regulations has been committed, AFTER that person has left the ground. What’s the club supposed to do about that?

One way some vloggers have got around this rule is to film not the match highlights themselves, but their own reactions to incidents, as the Tranmere Rovers fan in the below video does.

So, in short, filming matches for your own use is OK, but sharing them is not. It could get you or, more likely, the club you support in trouble.

In conclusion though, this is a rule that lacks common sense. Obviously, there are copyright issues with anyone broadcasting live football matches without authority, and it could stop people attending matches. The EFA’s blanket rule, however, fails to differentiate between out-and-out bootleggers trying to make a quick buck out of dodgy match footage, and young, enthusiastic fans who just want to share their experiences of the club and sport they love.

There is no victim in the ‘crime’ of sharing a few retrospective match highlights after the game has finished, and in fact it promotes the club and the league, so I’d like to see this rule challenged and clubs allowed to show a degree of discretion.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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