1-0 to landlady in fight against Sky football rights

Karen Murphy, landlady of the Red White & Blue pub, in Fawcett Road, Southsea.    Picture: Michael Scaddan (083016-0187)
Karen Murphy, landlady of the Red White & Blue pub, in Fawcett Road, Southsea. Picture: Michael Scaddan (083016-0187)
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A PUBLICAN has taken a big step forward in her fight against Sky, which could change the way television football rights are sold.

Karen Murphy was convicted in 2007 for bypassing Sky and showing matches using the much-cheaper Greek broadcaster, Nova.

The landlady of the Red, White & Blue pub in Southsea was told she had broken copyright law because each broadcaster who buys rights from the Premier League has a monopoly over that game in the country.

But Mrs Murphy appealed, and her case finally reached the European Court of Justice yesterday.

A 60-page report by the court’s Advocate General has now sided with her view. But it’s still up to the judges to decide who wins.

Mrs Murphy said: ‘I didn’t quite realise how long and far this path would go, but I’m very glad it has. I haven’t met anybody who isn’t on my side, the man on the street pays for their high prices anyway.

‘I’m hoping this will bring football back to reality.’

Her solicitor, Paul Dixon, said he hoped the judges would go along with the Advocate General’s findings.

‘The Advocate General found powerfully in favour of Mrs Murphy, which was a huge boost for our case,’ he said.

‘But we are being cautious, as this is only an opinion and the judges do not ultimately have to follow it, though they do more often than not.’

The Premier League sells the rights to broadcast its matches around the world, with Sky owning the rights in the UK. This means that TV channels from other countries cannot broadcast games in Britain.

Mr Dixon said that in his opinion, the Advocate General regards this position as unlawful and contrary to the free market principles of the European Union.

‘If this decision is upheld the consequences will be huge – and not just for football,’ he said. ‘Hollywood are also paying close attention to this case, because it has the potential to affect all broadcasting on the continent, and every European citizen.’

The court is set to pass its final judgment on the case in three months.

Mr Dixon said: ‘We believe in Karen and her cause and what she is standing for, it is her passion that has made this possible.’

Mrs Murphy’s case first started in 2006, when she was initially acquitted because she had paid for the transmission and had not received it dishonestly.

Now the Premier League is seeking a ban on importing, selling, and using decoder cards which are used to receive transmissions from other countries.