League take positives from TV ruling

FOOTBALL’s Premier League claimed a partial victory yesterday despite losing a European court case against a pub landlady who used a foreign decoder to screen live matches at 3pm on Saturdays.

Karen Murphy paid £800 a year for the Greek service and said she would have had to pay 10 times that much for Sky.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in her favour, but added that some parts of the broadcast such as the graphics remained the Premier League’s copyright.

The ruling effectively allows anyone to buy a cheaper decoder from elsewhere in Europe, though in practice it is only cost-effective for pubs and clubs to do so, but the Premier League insists the ruling has made clear they have to authorise any screenings in places such as pubs.

The ECJ ruling is still likely to have major implications for how sporting broadcast rights are sold both in Britain and Ireland in the future, but the case first has to return to the High Court.

The league said they would take time to digest the full findings and how it might influence their future sale of broadcast rights in Europe.

One option for the Premier League will be to sell their domestic rights and European rights as one giant package, but with no Saturday 3pm games included.

Premier League insiders insist the ruling will not necessarily mean a drop in television income from mainland Europe, which is around £130million, or less than 10% of their total £1.4billion overseas rights deal.

Q&A

Q: What was the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision.

A: The court ruled against the Premier League, and in favour of Portsmouth publican Karen Murphy, to say that she should be allowed to buy a foreign satellite decoder to show matches at 3pm on Saturdays.

Q: What are the implications of the decision?

A: On the face of it, anyone in the UK should now be able to buy decoders to watch matches at any time. That could lead to the Premier League being forced to sell their TV rights in one giant pan-European package.

Q: What else can the Premier League do?

A: There is a still a long way to go in the legal battles. They could also introduce their own Premier League subscription TV channel, or maintain sales on a country-by-country basis but exclude countries such as Greece who do not pay very much and yet are providing cheap alternatives to Sky for pubs and clubs.

Q: Will it be cheaper for the man in the street.

A: No – the saving is really for pubs. Greek station Nova charges £45 per month for sports, much the same as Sky for non-commercial consumers, and there is the cost of the equipment too.

Q: Was the ECJ decision a completely clear-cut ruling?

A: Being a European court, of course not. The ECJ also stated that although the matches could not be subject to copyright, the Premier League’s anthem and “various graphics” could be.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It allows the Premier League to argue in court that all logos shown during matches are their copyright, and therefore they have to give permission to the likes of Karen Murphy for live football to be shown.

Q: Does that mean it will be going back to court?

A: Yes indeed – next stop the High Court

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