Lincolnshire landlords hoping for an end to sky-high TV sports costs
LANDLORDS are hoping a monopoly on live football broadcasting rights could be broken, making it cheaper to screen matches in county pubs.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled yesterday it was "contrary to EU law" for the Premier League to have the power to restrict where matches are screened following a legal action by Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy.
The organisation, which governs England's top league, uses a system of exclusive licences to decide which matches are shown in different EU countries.
This effectively stops fans watching broadcasts in other member states via a foreign decoder card. Now, the ECJ ruling should allow anyone to buy a cheaper decoder from elsewhere in Europe.
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But it is not a green light for pubs to seek cheaper alternatives, as parts of the Premier League's broadcast are still under copyright and need to be authorised.
Michael Kheng, chairman of the Lincoln Uphill Pubwatch, said: "It's the start of, hopefully, the end.
"I don't think it's about being able to show football whenever. It's more about the cost implications – the reason people use satellites.
"There are two types of satellites, the European one and the Middle Eastern one. This ruling is about the European one.
"The cost of that system is a fraction of the cost of Sky. That's the main reason people will be looking at this, see where it goes from here and see if they can have an affordable system in their premises."
Mr Kheng said it could cost a small pub about £1,000 a month to purchase a Sky package, which made it hard to justify buying.
A decoder from Greece is said to cost £800 a year.
Mr Kheng said: "It's about time Sky had its monopoly broken.
"As soon as the ruling was announced, there were e-mails flying around all over the place. It's good we are on the way."
A European Commission spokesman welcomed the verdict, saying the judges had backed their arguments during the court hearing.
He said: "The court follows the Commission's belief that EU citizens should have the right to use pay-TV subscriptions across borders."
But Lincolnshire Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin said the verdict could deliver a blow to the funding of grassroots sport through television rights.
She said: "This is not as simple as a David versus Goliath battle.
"There's a reason why these are called territorial rights. Money from television rights is funnelled back into developing the stars of the future. I fear that this ruling will have detrimental effects on our national teams. National leagues should be subjected to national rights agreements. Sport is a very specific sector and not all EU single market law recognises that. This ruling certainly fails to recognise the specificity of sport.
"We will be feeling the consequences of this ruling at all levels of sport for many years to come."
The Premier League said the ruling made it clear they had to give permission for screenings in a pub.
The statement said: "This is clearly a complex issue, one that the ECJ has spent a significant amount of time considering.
"We are pleased the judgement makes it clear the screening in a pub of football match broadcasts containing protected works requires the Premier League's authorisation.
"Currently, only Sky and ESPN are authorised by the Premier League to make such broadcasts."