‘Guildford Duo’ case: update

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

On 7 September, 2015, we reported on this case, which has come to be known as the ‘Guildford Duo’ case, in which Simon Hopkins and Leon Passlow were convicted at Guildford Crown Court, United Kingdom, and handed down prison sentences of three and a half years each for fraudulently selling access to TV coverage of English Premier League matches.

At the end of the case, the Police announced that they would be pursuing further proceedings against the offenders, with a view to confiscating assets unlawfully acquired by them as a result of their fraud under the UK Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (as amended).

At a further hearing at Guildford Crown Court on 30 September, 2016, as a result of a number of successful forfeiture orders obtained by the Surrey Police Economic Crime Unit, working in collaboration with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the Guildford Duo were ordered to pay back almost £1 million of their ill-gotten gains to the Premier League by 3 January, 2017.

If they fail to do so, the Guildford Duo will have to serve a further 7 years in prison!

A spokesperson for FACT remarked that: “this should serve as a strong warning that ultimately intellectual property crime does not pay.”

Whilst a spokesperson for the English Premier League commented: “this case provides further evidence that companies and individuals which illegally supply Premier League football to pubs and commercial premises risk jail time for doing so.”

And added: “we would advise the owners and operators of hotels, pubs, betting shops and other premises interested in broadcast Premier League football to contact Sky Sports and BT Sport as they are the only broadcasters authorised to do so in this country.”

Copyright infringement is both a civil and a criminal matter with serious consequences for offenders!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer, Academic, Author and a Member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’.