Sunderland AFC executive director Charlie Methven has blasted “parasites” who are hampering efforts to improve the Black Cats’ financial situation.
Mr Methven said earlier this week that the club would be looking to target pubs and bars on Wearside who are showing live matches, accusing bosses of “trying to get a free ride” out of the club.
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.
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”.
Speaking to BBC Newcastle about the issue, Mr Methven said he had seen photographic evidence taken by fans of pubs and bars in Sunderland advertising live games which are not broadcast on Sky.
He told the BBC: “If you’re a fanatic of your football club and you decide that actually what you’re going to do is you’re going to spend your money on a few pints of lager and watch an illegal stream of the match rather than contributing that money to trying to help your club to be the best it possibly can, you’re not a fan, you’re a parasite.”
When asked if the club could offer more discounted tickets, Mr Methven added: “Sunderland AFC has almost the lowest prices in the entire country.
“Our price per ticket is absolutely rock bottom.
“When you average them out, it can be about £12 per ticket.
“I don’t buy that there are people who are poor enough to not be able to afford that but are rich enough to be able to afford to go to pubs and drink in there.”
But Mr Methven has moved to clarify that he was not describing SAFC fans as “parasites”, but the pub owners who choose to illegally stream games.
“A fan can’t be a parasite, it’s the pub owners doing this who are,” said Mr Methven.
“It’s up to all of the businesses in Sunderland to try and support each other.
“I’ve had quite a few people say that more and more people are in pubs in the city before and after games now, which is brilliant.
“But you are doing this kind of business, trying to make a bit of extra money on the side (by showing illegal streams), then I don’t think you are doing your civic duty when the club is in a very difficult situation financially at the moment.
“If a supporter says to me that they are not going to bother coming to the game and sit in a pub and watch it on an illegal stream, I would question if they are a supporter.
“I don’t criticise anyone who wants to watch a match in a pub like that, but I reserve the right not to call them supporters.
“Being a supporter means you are supporting the club.”