Following your favourite football team or league can be as complicated as heart surgery. Between all the rules governing what matches can be watched live and what TV subscriptions and equipment you need, trying to watch football live can be both difficult and expensive. Additionally, watching live football in a crowded bar can be bad for your wallet, really bad your liver, and especially bad for your ability to follow the action closely.
As such, watching live football ONLINE has become the answer to most football fans’ prayers. The quality varies, and the speed of the live football stream depends on your internet connection, as well as the live football site’s own traffic. However, regardless of the quality, watching live football online is much better than missing the match, and if you have the right equipment, it can be just as good as watching on television.
Between paying services, free services, and paying services which give you access to free live football services, it’s almost as if the consumer now has too many choices when it comes to watching football online. With so many different ways of watching football online live, football fans often don’t know where to start. Hopefully, this article can help you decide what kind of online service for live football is right for you.
I. Watching Live Football Online – System Requirements (PC and Mac)
Just about all of the streaming sites are designed for PC use. Generally, the video streams are encoded in Windows Media Video (WMV) format. To view the streams, you’ll need to download Windows Media Player version 9 or higher. Mac users shouldn’t fret, though. All you need to do is download Flip4Mac, a free program that converts WMV files for use on the Mac.
For PCs, it’s generally recommended that you should run Windows XP or Vista. Most sites recommend a processor speed of 1 GHz or faster, as well as 256 MB RAM or more. Essentially, while you don’t need state-of-the-art hardware in order to view football matches on-line, the higher your capability, the better the quality of your viewing experience will be.
As for what Internet browser to use, different sites have different recommendations. You can bet, though, that as long as you have the latest version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or Netscape, then you should be fine. Additionally, some sites will require you to download a DirectX driver or a Flash Video Player. Both are available for free.
II. TV Sports and Football Channel Sites
Many TV sports networks that carry football matches will provide streaming live coverage of football matches, usually for a price. Setanta Sports and Sky Sports are the two biggest networks in the UK that carry Premiership matches. As such, both networks offer live, streaming coverage of Premiership matches on-line.
Setanta Sports offers separate live football streams for UK and North American customers.
North American viewers can subscribe on a monthly or annual basis. The monthly fee is $14.99/month and the annual fee is $149.99/year. The monthly fee gives you access to 150 Barclays Premier League matches per season. On Saturdays, Setanta has first and third choice for both the 7:30am ET and 10am ET matches. Additionally, both the Sunday 8:30am ET and Monday 3pm ET matches are first choice, and any games played Tuesdays or Wednesdays are also first picks by Setanta. Matches are also available via tape delay and on-demand.
Setanta Broadband also has Pay-Per-View events, which are priced individually on a per game or package basis. UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and World Cup Qualifiers are all available via PPV. Annual subscribers get access to PPV events for free, while monthly subscribers can watch PPV events on tape-delay 24 hours after the match.
UK subscribers have a little more football action at their disposal. For £7.99 per month (with no minimum contract), or £79.99 for an annual subscription, subscribers can get access to 46 games per season live and exclusive from The Barclays Premier League, up to 25 live games per season from the F.A. Cup, including one live Semi-Final match, and live coverage of the Final, 60 live games each season from the Scottish Premier League, including all the Old Firm derbies and all the big matches, action from the German Bundesliga, France’s Le Championnat, the Portuguese Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie. Additionally, subscribers will have access to the UEFA Cup, some England international matches broadcast live, and a handful of matches featuring Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Available to UK and Ireland-based subscribers only, Sky Sports Net is an extension of Sky Sports TV. If you are a Sky TV subscriber and you subscribe to Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 and Sky Multiroom (and are not benefiting from any other offer), then you get Sky Sports Net for free. If you are a Sky TV subscriber, but do not subscribe to Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 and Sky Multiroom (or you do, but you are benefiting from another offer), the cost of subscribing to the Service is £10 per month. The Service is NOT available to non-Sky subscribers.
Subscribers will have access to select Premier League matches broadcast live, usually 1-3 per weekend, as well as select live matches from La Liga, the F.A. and Carling Cups, and the Championship. Additionally, subscribers will get to watch select International matches live.
UEFA’s website offers live streaming video of all UEFA club and international competitions. Live matches cost $7.95 per match and are purchased individually. There is a “Replay Subscription” that is available to viewers who want to watch matches on delay. A â‚¬29.99 annual pass includes full match replay, access to UEFA’s archives, and live audio commentary during UEFA matches. Matches can also be purchased individually from the archives for â‚¬1.99 per match
It’s important to note that UEFA’s live football streaming video content is only available to Windows users. Mac users might be able to get around this restriction by using Crossover, but I’m not sure about that. It’s too bad. If you ever wanted to re-live Manchester United’s stirring comeback against Bayern Munich, Barcelona fending off an inspired Arsenal side, or Liverpool’s stunning win against AC Milan, then you better be using a PC.
D. ESPN 360
ESPN 360 is a great way to watch matches that you wouldn’t normally have access to just by watching the ESPN family of networks. The catch is that you must subscribe to a participating high-speed ISP (internet service provider, Verizon being the largest participating).
ESPN 360 provides up to 10 different live soccer streams covering sports ranging from soccer to college football. ESPN 360 has archived UEFA Champions League events which are only available for 24-48 hours after the match. Additionally, MLS Matches available on-demand, as are the European Championships and the World Cup. Basically, any sporting event that ESPN has the rights to can be seen, in some form, on ESPN 360.
ESPN 360 is still in its beginning stages, so we should expect significant upgrades and greater availability in the coming years.
Fox Sports — Australia is available to Australian residents only. Thank you Rupert Murdoch!
Aussies can get up to 4 live Premiership matches a week that you can flick through, similar to Direct TV’s Direct Ticket for the NFL. Additionally, subscribers have access to up to 5 tape-delayed Premiership matches a week that you can watch at any time. Unfortunately, when it comes to UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup, or Carling Cup action, Aussies are out of luck. Fox Sports only streams Premier League matches. I guess Rupert’s power only goes so far.
Subscribers can purchase a 9 Day Pass for $15 (Australian Dollars), which gives you access to 4 live matches and 5 on-demand matches. Or, subscribers can purchase a Season Pass for $125 (Australian Dollars), which gives you access to 4 live matches and 5 on-demand matches per week, which works out to over 200 games of the Barclay’s Premier League in the 2008/09 season.
Also see: WebTVWire.com’s review of Fox Sports Australia’s Premier League service.
III. Official Football Club Websites
Most European clubs, (including all 20 Premiership teams) offer streaming on-line content to their subscribers. Due to F.A. restrictions and TV contracts, none of the Premiership websites are allowed to broadcast live footage of Premiership, Cup, or European matches. They are allowed to broadcast full matches via tape delay, and will usually provide live audio commentary, text updates during matches. Additionally, most club websites will air exclusive post-match interviews, video highlights, documentaries, and archival footage. Some clubs broadcast reserve and academy matches live.
Premiership teams with online streaming content:
|Blackburn Rovers||“Rovers World“|
|Bolton Wanderers||“Wanderers World“|
|Hull City||“Tigers World“|
|Liverpool||“Liverpool FC TV“|
|Manchester City||“MCFC TV“|
|Newcastle United||“nufc TV“|
|Stoke City||“Stoke World“|
|Tottenham Hotspur||“Spurs TV“|
|West Bromich Albion||“Albion World“|
|West Ham United||“WHU TV”|
|Wigan Atheltic||“Latics World“|
This piece is, obviously, a work in progress and is not intended to be comprehensive. If anyone out there knows of other means of watching football on line, feel free to leave a comment. Please limit it to Network Websites or Club Websites.
Free streaming websites and P2P programs are widely available on-line, and are covered in part two of our series:
Watch Live Football Online:
- Watch English Premier League Live Online
- Watch World Cup Live Online
- Watch Champions League Live Online
- Watch European Championship Live Online
- Watch Europa League Live Online
- Watch La Liga Live Online
- Watch Serie A Live Online
- Watch Bundesliga Live Online
- Watch Ligue 1 Live Online
- Watch Scottish Premier League Live Online
- Watch FA Cup Live Online
- Watch Carling Cup Live Online
- Watch African Cup of Nations Live Online
- Watch English Championship Live Online