Landlord’s delight at court’s TV ruling

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A EUROPEAN court’s ruling in favour of a pub landlady who showed live football matches at 3pm on Saturdays has been welcomed by a Hartlepool landlord.

The Premier League is said to be facing a major upheaval in how it sells its TV rights after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the banning of decoder cards to air foreign channels showing English Premier League games is “contrary to EU law”.

The ruling effectively allows anyone to buy a cheaper decoder from elsewhere in Europe and watch Premier League games at any time.

Paul Kerr, owner of the 3 Lions Sports Bar, in Park Road, Hartlepool, pays around £350 a month for Sky Sports but also gets Saturday matches through a foreign supplier.

He said the video feeds are key to his business because football attracts so many people to his bar and many others in the town.

Mr Kerr told the Mail: “I know some pubs that pay in the thousands for Sky because football is such a big crowd puller. Sky is the best system but it is very expensive. They also don’t show the 3pm games, which people want to see so you need the other options.

“If I can now get it cheaper, that’s fantastic. I know Sky won’t budge at all because they’re in it for themselves and want to make as much as they can because they’re a business. This will hopefully open a bit more competition.

“I don’t think this will be the end of it though. I’m sure there will be more court cases over the next couple of years, but I’m pleased that this landlord has won for now.”

The case came to the ECJ after Portsmouth publican Karen Murphy appealed after losing a court action brought against her by the Premier League for using a cheap Greek satellite decoder. The case in the ECJ also involved the suppliers of such decoder cards to those pubs.

The ECJ said in a statement: “A system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches which grants broadcasters territorial exclusivity on a member state basis and which prohibits television viewers from watching the broadcasts with a decoder card in other member states is contrary to EU law.”

The ECJ also ruled that only the opening video sequence, the Premier League anthem, and pre-recorded clips showing highlights of recent Premier League matches and various graphics could be protected by copyright.

The matches themselves are not protected.

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

The Premier League is also likely to argue that the ECJ’s ruling that “various graphics” shown before and during matches can be regarded as copyright will allow it to retain control of where the live games can be shown.

Pubs would have to obtain permission to broadcast those opening sequences, said the ruling, but not the match itself.

The ECJ ruling has been criticised by Tory MP Damian Collins, a member of the culture, media and sport select committee who called it “another unwelcome intervention in our national life from the ECJ”.