IT started just like any other day.
But little did Karen Murphy know that the hand-delivered envelope waiting on the bar for her at the Red White and Blue pub would turn her life upside down.
The 46-year-old grandmother had innocently – or so she thought – started showing football matches at the pub in Fawcett Road, Southsea, having just signed up to Greek broadcaster Nova to save cash.
But just days after showing the Wigan v Arsenal premiership game on November 19 2005, Karen was slapped with a court summons, claiming she had broken copyright law by bypassing Sky.
‘I came in to the pub and there was a letter on the bar.
‘I opened it and it was from Media Protection Services, saying I was being prosecuted for showing the match. I couldn’t believe it. I have never had Sky in this pub. I cancelled it when I first moved in because of the cost. The pub isn’t exactly large and it was very expensive.
‘In 2005, Gales, who then owned the pub, had a meeting with all of the local landlords and there was a presentation from Nova. It was much cheaper than Sky so we went for it. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong and it meant we could also show Pompey games that weren’t on Sky. We abided by Sky’s rules by not showing 3pm games.
‘It made a massive difference, especially when the games were on. I remember the Pompey away game against Wigan – we were absolutely packed.
‘I couldn’t believe I was being accused of dishonestly showing the game. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.’
At that point many people would have accepted defeat and walked away. But not Karen.
It was the start of a five-year fight that could now see the rule book governing the way the now Premier League and other televised sports rights are sold around Europe being torn up. Currently each broadcaster who buys rights from the Premier League has a monopoly over that game in the country.
But thanks to Mrs Murphy that could now all change.
She went to Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court in 2006, where the prosecution was defeated. On the advice of her solicitor, Karen continued to show games at the pub via Nova. Then she received another letter, was taken back to court and this time fined £5,000.
Karen appealed and at Portsmouth Crown Court the fine was increased to £8,000.
So Karen decided to take her case all the way to the European Court of Justice. And last week Advocate General Julie Kottock said her conviction should be overturned. It’s far from the final whistle in this game. But Karen Murphy’s determined to fight on. She says: ‘I have been branded a cheat, a fraudster, a liar and dishonest, just for making a choice about where I wanted to buy something from, which is ridiculous.
‘The opinion from the Advocate General is fantastic. I would love it to follow on that my appeal is upheld.
‘I didn’t realise when I started out what it would mean. I’ve spent thousands trying to fight this. There were so many times I thought about giving up. But I’m still here and I’ll keep going. I’m not giving up now.’