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Lincolnshire landlords hoping for an end to sky-high TV sports costs

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 05, 2011

CHEERS: Landlady Karen Murphy celebrates at her pub, The Red White and Blue in Portsmouth, after defeating the Premier League in a bid to show football matches via a foreign TV decoder.

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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.

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."

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  • eatmygoal  |  October 06 2011, 6:39PM

    Trotting out a tired example but why are footballers always overpaid yet film/music stars escape this scrutiny? Footballers are paid the going rate for what they do and there are not many who can do it as well as them. Yes Tevez is utterly dislikeable, but he has a talent way beyond most and it is a talent that billions want to see. In fact they want to see it so much they pay TV subscriptions, so why should Tevez not take a cut of this? In fact his actions last month have lead to a near forest of articles produced which people gobbled up, and football has become more of a soap story, he has kept the interest higher than most and so is due a bigger share of the pie. Law wise, in two years time most media experts believe there will be no effect from this as contracts are renegotiated.

  • Ian_Heighton  |  October 06 2011, 3:58PM

    We aren't talking about Greek commentary either, but exactly the same commentary as you would hear if you watched the match on Sky. In fact the only difference you'll notice is a Greek broadcasters logo in the corner of the screen. Have you not watched Premier League football whilst on holiday abroad in Greece, Spain etc." As a satellite TV specialist, I can receive the channels here. The Greek channels usually have only Greek commentary, The Italian channels usually have Italian and Arabic commentary. You usually need the Scandinavian channels or the Irish Setanta Sports to get English commentary. I say usually as there are always exceptions. The Saturday 3pm games are not shown on Sky

  • saddletramp2  |  October 06 2011, 3:38PM

    Supply and demand people are willing to pay the high prices charged and Sky are only too willing to keep putting prices up.It's rather like taking candy off a baby.You all stop paying and to view and prices fall the choice is yours.

  • FreedomSpeech  |  October 06 2011, 3:12PM

    Examiner, I fear you may not be in full possession of the facts. Copyright law doesn't come into it because the Greek satellite channels have paid their dues and are broadcasting the matches legitimately. We aren't talking about Greek commentary either, but exactly the same commentary as you would hear if you watched the match on Sky. In fact the only difference you'll notice is a Greek broadcasters logo in the corner of the screen. Have you not watched Premier League football whilst on holiday abroad in Greece, Spain etc.

  • Ian_Heighton  |  October 06 2011, 2:00PM

    The Scandinavian channels usually have English commentary but their subscription is higher than the Greek, so not as popular in pubs. I suspect that home viewers that don't want to pay Sky would be more likely to resort to illegal methods than Pay for a European subscription. I agree that these soccer players are overpaid prima donnas and we have even recently had one manager complaining about TV having too much control over the game. They should take Soccer off TV altogether, Players would have to live in the real world and they could play their games whenever they like - Sky subs could come down by £25 per Month as well

  • excallibur  |  October 06 2011, 1:07PM

    steve,I agree with everything you said except that tevez is on 200 grand a WEEK,he'd struggle to live on just 200k a month,sky have perverted most sports with their money and now they're stealing all the sports from the free terrestrial channels,also its seems everyone in sport is just in it to get rich....

  • pinnerkid  |  October 06 2011, 11:47AM

    Oh to find a city centre pub which is not polluted by stupid football blaring out!

  • JacabusRex  |  October 06 2011, 9:03AM

    Surely, the benefit of the UK being a member of the EU should be that if a fellow EU member country can offer access to football cheaper through their decoder for less money than Sky then surely it should be legal for us to buy that decoder. Or being in the UK are were only permitted to give, give, give instead of reaping the benefits?. I dislike Sky immensely and consider them to be greedy profiteers.

  • examiner2  |  October 06 2011, 8:47AM

    The fact of the matter is that it's great for David to slay goliath but this will have no effect on the way pubs show Premiership football. In theory yes you could have a foreign decoder but you still can't use it in business because of copy right laws. It's true to say that you can use one in your private domestic house but who would want to have the commentary in Greek for example apart from Greek speaking people. You could have the TV on and Radio 5 live in the background but what a poor experience for the sake of saving a few quid. The only effect will be that when the Sky renegotiates with the its European partners the price for them will increase so that's its on a par with what you would pay here. I don't think they be a lot of European football fans cheering that one. So it's really a great victory for the landlady of this pub because she will get the money she was fined back but it's an own goal for everybody else.

  • Gnome_Chomsky  |  October 05 2011, 8:17PM

    What is Mr Kheng's hold on The Echo? Are there never any other bar owners available for interview?