EU court deals pubs blow to Sky Sports and ESPN

03 February 2011 by
EU court deals pubs blow to Sky Sports and ESPN

Broadcasters cannot stop pubs and other customers using cheaper foreign satellite TV equipment to watch Premier League football, according to a non-binding opinion from an EU legal adviser.

Juliane Kokott from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said a block on using these cheaper services breached EU laws, according to the BBC.

The news comes after Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy, fined £8,000 for using Greek decoders, argued that the EU single market should let her use any European provider.

Murphy used a firm called Nova to show matches in the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth until enforcers working on behalf of Football Association Premier League Limited (FAPL) brought a prosecution against her, saying only Sky TV had exclusive rights to show its games in the UK.

Only Sky and ESPN currently have the broadcast rights to Premier League football in the UK. The costs for pubs to show Premier League games can hit around £1,000 a month.

A statement from the ECJ said: "In the view of Advocate General Kokott, territorial exclusivity agreements relating to the transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law. European Union law does not make it possible to prohibit the live transmission of Premier League football matches in pubs by means of foreign decoder cards."

It added: "The freedom to provide services is also in line with the Satellite and Cable Directive and with European competition law. Equally, neither does the Conditional Access Directive constitute a barrier to the use of foreign decoder cards."

The European Court of Justice will make a ruling on the matter later this year.

If it accepts the opinion, it may no longer be possible for broadcasters to sell sport, movies, or any other content, on an exclusive territory-by-territory basis within the EU.

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By Neil Gerrard

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