Southsea landlady tells of her legal fight

THRILLED Landlady Karen Murphy and her husband Patrick.   Picture: Paul Jacobs (113509-22)
THRILLED Landlady Karen Murphy and her husband Patrick. Picture: Paul Jacobs (113509-22)

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WHEN she found a letter on her bar saying she was being taken to court, Karen Murphy had no idea what lay ahead.

Now after six years and thousands of pounds in legal fees she has become a hero to pubs and fans up and down the country – and she doesn’t even like football.

Her amazing journey started when, along with four other Portsmouth pubs dubbed the Pompey Five, she was advised by her brewery of a cheap solution to the ever-increasing cost of broadcasting Premier League football matches.

Gales brewery suggested she fit a decoder box that would allow her to access Greek channel Nova and avoid paying the expensive fees charged by Sky.

So when in February 2006 Mrs Murphy discovered the Premier League was prosecuting her she was surprised to say the least.

‘Within two months of starting to broadcast matches with Nova we received a court summons, which was quite a shock,’ she said.

‘So the brewery suggested I contact my current solicitor Paul Dixon and we have been working together ever since.

‘He believed in what we were fighting for and his help has been essential.’

In 2006, along with the landlords of the other four pubs, Mrs Murphy arrived at court in the hope of defending her position.

She said: ‘Paul said one of us needed to go first and take the lead in the courtroom.

‘So I stood up and said I would do it.

‘That’s when it really started.’

The judge accepted Mrs Murphy’s argument that the pubs had acted in good faith and so dropped the charges.

But when Mrs Murphy attempted to continue using her Greek decoder box she was once again slapped with a court summons after the Premier League appealed the original decision.

This resulted in her being fined £8,000 for breaching copyright law in 2006, but she still refused to drop the issue – arguing that under European law Sky’s monopoly was illegal.

The case then started its passage to the European Court in Luxembourg – and ever since then Karen and her husband Patrick have had legal action hanging over them.

She said: ‘It has been like a weight bearing down on our shoulders.

‘You can try and forget it but it’s always there in the back of your mind. We couldn’t really get on with our lives because it was unresolved.

‘I tried not to let it interfere with my personal life but obviously my husband was affected. We dealt with the stress together.’

Mr Murphy, 56, is the pub’s joint licence holder and said he had been 100 per cent behind his wife’s cause.

He said: ‘The way I see it this was just a big company coming in and saying “we’ve got more money than you so we can tell you what to do”.

‘We did worry all the time about what would happen if we lost, but we had so much support.

‘A lot of away fans would seek out the pub when they came to Portsmouth just to shake Karen’s hand.

‘They all supported what she was doing and that gave us a boost.

‘We received so many phone calls, letters and emails of encouragement – it was pretty amazing.’

Mr Murphy admitted there were times when the experience made the couple want to leave the pub behind and forget the whole case.

‘There were days when Karen said she could give it all up tomorrow,’ he said.

‘But she kept fighting.’

His wife added: ‘I would definitely have left the pub behind years ago if all this hadn’t happened.

‘Running a pub right now is just so difficult financially, but I thought “what’s the point of going through all this if I don’t have the pub?”

‘So in a strange way it’s kept me here, for better or worse.’

Now Mrs Murphy believes she is ‘90 per cent’ of the way to her goal but said she can’t fully relax until the very end.

‘We’re so close but not quite there yet,’ she said.

‘But for now I’m going to enjoy this moment. I think I deserve a few drinks after everything that’s happened.’