A south coast pub landlady has gone
1-0 up in her long running battle against the multibillion-pound English
Premier League, after the EU’s highest court was advised to rule in her favour.
The case, which began with Karen
Murphy defending her right to show English Premier League matches beamed in
from Greece to a handful of drinkers at the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth,
could have far-reaching ramifications for sport, broadcasting and consumers.
In a decision that could change the
way sports rights are sold across the continent, the European court of justice
was advised that forbidding pubs from buying in cheap football coverage from
overseas operators was incompatible with European law.
If the advice is followed, it will
affect everyone from armchair football fans to pub landlords and well
remunerated players and potentially undermine a model that has fuelled the
Premier League boom years.
Murphy was taken to court by a
company representing the league over her decision to import a Greek decoder to
show the games rather than paying Sky, which holds the rights in the UK.
She has fought the case all the way
to the highest European court.
As well as the criminal case
against Murphy, civil cases against two importers of the decoder cards are
being considered in parallel.
In the short term, the decision
could allow pubs to show matches on a Saturday at 3pm, which the football
authorities have long argued would result in lower league attendances.
It could also allow consumers to buy cheaper
subscriptions from continental providers, assuming they had the correct kit, in
preference to Sky.
In the longer term, that would
probably force the Premier League to sell its rights on a pan-European basis to
a single media group – a scenario that could impact on its revenues and throw
up its own European competition issues.
While the opinion is not binding,
the Luxembourg court follows the advice of advocate generals in most cases.
The court is expected to deliver
its verdict later this year, which will then be handed down to the high court