GAS meter readers are being asked to spy on pubs which may be illegally showing football matches, The Press can reveal.

Security company G4S has admitted asking its meter readers to work “out of uniform” while carrying out certain “non-utility data collection contracts”.

G4S staff have been sent into pubs in York and North Yorkshire to carry out undercover checks as part of a nationwide policy, according to one whistleblower.

The practice came to light after The Press was contacted by a member of G4S staff who said he and other meter readers felt uncomfortable carrying out the covert checks on behalf of TV company Sky.

The employee, who asked not to be named, said: “We are told to take off our uniforms off, leave our handhelds (meter readers) at home and not to make ourselves known to anyone in the pub.

“That’s not what I joined up for - it just does not feel right. If I could go in and say why I was there and give them a chance then it would feel better, but this is just not right.

“We have been told to sit and watch telly and the details.”

The worker, who has carried out the undercover checks a number of times, said he was also concerned for his safety should his cover be blown during one of the covert visits.

“We call them Sky spy jobs,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of people don’t like doing them.”

A G4S spokesman said: “We have a number of utility and non-utility data collection contracts and can confirm that some of our employees carrying out those services will do so without wearing G4S uniforms, although they will always carry identification which will be shown when asked.”

A Sky spokesman said: "Sky's committed to protecting the interests of its legitimate commercial customers. Sky therefore employs a number of companies, including G4S, to visit pubs across the UK to help identify pubs who use residential viewing cards in breach of their Sky contract. Those premises found to be accessing Sky unlawfully may be subject to legal action - much in the same way as they would if they didn't have a TV licence."

Dave Woods, who ran the Cross keys pub on Tadcaster Road until January this year, said he was asked to pay £1,600 every month to show Sky in his pub.

“It’s way too expensive,” he said. “You have to sell a lot of beer to cover £1600 a month. I was surprised to hear a company like G4S would be involved in something like that but when you look at it I’m not surprised. They are trying to catch you out.”