Sunderland AFC executive director Charlie Methven has slammed pub landlords on Wearside who show Black Cats games illegally - accusing them of trying to get a “free ride off the back of the club”.
The club today said it will now be working with the authorities to “root out” the practice of venues showing games without having the correct licenses.
Mr Methven accused those broadcasting games illegally of “taking the mickey” out of the club at a time when he argues he and others who are part of the new regime are “trying to get Sunderland AFC back on its feet”.
Under English Football League (EFL) broadcast rules, games being streamed on club websites cannot be shown on screens in pubs, clubs and other venues.
Live Sky games can be shown by venues if they have the relevant licenses in place.
The club says that the EFL has advised SAFC that they have “robust processes” in place to tackle any establishment found to be showing games.
The EFL confirmed that it has been contacted by the club but is not able to comment further.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said that landlords should be aware that they are breaking the law by showing non-televised matches and could face criminal proceedings by doing so.
Mr Methven, who was installed as executive director when chairman Stewart Donald took over the club from American billionaire Ellis Short, said: “We are desperately trying to get Sunderland AFC back on its feet, financially, yet you have people in the city itself trying to get a free ride off the back of the club.
“Much as we want to be the ‘nice guys’ as much as possible, that doesn’t extend to tolerating people brazenly taking the mickey out of the club.
“We owe it to the fans to run Sunderland in a business-like way, so we will be working with the authorities to root out this illegal practice.”
It is not the first time that those in charge at SAFC have taken aim at pubs showing games illegally and the knock-on effect it has on attendances and revenues for the club.
Former chairman Niall Quinn famously said he “despises” supporters who watch games beamed illegally to pubs and clubs rather than make the effort to attend matches.
Speaking in 2011, Quinn said: “I would never criticise anyone who doesn’t come to the stadium because of financial constraints, but I despise those who spend far more than the price of a ticket watching some overseas commentator describing the action at the nearby Stadium of Light.”
Last year, five pubs in and around the Sunderland area were told they would have to pay almost £60,000 between them in costs for illegally showing Premier League matches.
The actions follow a change in law which took place in 2016 meaning a pub simply showing an unauthorised broadcast of a Premier League football match – irrespective of whether logos or graphics are displayed – infringes Premier League copyright and could face legal action.
Ttonic and Chaplins, both in Sunderland city centre, were ordered to pay combined costs of £35,000.
The Inn Place, in Doxford and the Cavalier, in Silksworth, were ordered to pay £12,000 combined, and the Grey Horse, in Whitburn, was told it would have to fork out £11,000.
Following Mr Methven’s comments, a Northumbria Police spokesman said: “There is a perception that watching an illegal stream of a football match is a victimless crime – but that is not the case.
“Not only can the illegal streaming of non-televised matches contribute towards a significant financial loss to businesses, but it is also unfair that millions of people work hard to afford to pay for their subscription-only TV services when others cheat the system and watch for free.
“Our message to landlords is clear; if you are showing non-televised football matches, you are breaking the law – and could face criminal proceedings as a result.
“Anyone who is made aware of premises flouting the rules is asked to contact police on 101.”