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Premier League bosses have blown the whistle on fans who stream live footage from games without permission. Football chiefs are considering whether to take sites to court in a bid to clamp down on the practice.

Overseas broadcasts of live games are been relayed through the net in a move which potentially erodes the value of expensive broadcast rights. Dan Johnson, an FA Premier League spokesman, said that wider adoption of broadband technology has made broadcasting coverage of games live over the net a viable proposition. "It's something we became aware of six months ago. Basically we were seeing people infringing our rights with streaming. We're now considering taking one of those sites to court to make an example of them - and to set a precedent," Johnson told the BBC.

Although the FA offers licences for delayed streaming of games over the net and onto 3G mobile phones it does not currently offer licences to broadcast live over the net, partly because clubs are concerned this might diminish gate receipts by encouraging fans to stay away from games. Watching games live over the net remains a fringe activity used by only an estimated 50,000 fans a week, The Times reports. But the league wants to nip the issue in bud before the practice of watching unlicensed football coverage on the net takes off.

Word of sites offering streaming gets passed around through football message boards and in chat forums. Fans pay a small fee of a few pounds to watch games. Once the league became aware of the problem it hired technology firm NetResult to locate and shut down offending sites. NetResult has shut down 50 sites but as soon as it clamps down on one site a new one pops up in its place, with a slightly different name and sometimes run by the same people. For this reason the FA has begun considering its legal options in fighting net piracy. ®

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