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TV pubs and clubs loophole angers Premier League

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Premier League defends TV rights stance

The Premier League has criticised legal advice which could allow pubs and clubs to screen its matches at any time.

The European Union's advocate general has said that a Portsmouth publican was entitled to show top-flight games decoded from a Greek satellite signal.

But the Premier League said such a policy would "damage the interests of broadcasters and viewers of Premier League football across the EU".

Sky Sports and ESPN hold the rights to live Premier League matches in the UK.

That means pubs, clubs and other public venues wishing to screen games have to pay a monthly subscription.

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However, if advocate general Juliane Kokott's advice is upheld, subscribers would be free to use the cheapest decoder available to watch football matches even if it sidesteps exclusive national broadcasting agreements.

That could also mean football is broadcast between 1500 GMT and 1700 GMT on Saturdays which the Premier League says could have a detrimental affect on attendances across the country.

The Premier League receives nearly £2bn for the rights to screen English football's top flight but this ruling could affect that figure.

BSkyB has pumped billions of pounds into English football since the league was founded in 1992, with the money distributed to clubs allowing them to buy some of the top names in the world.

The satellite broadcaster makes about £200m annually in revenue from pubs and clubs, according to analysts at Jefferies Research.

They estimated an adverse ruling could have a £60-£70m impact.

The advocate general's advice comes after Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy, fined for using Greek decoders, had argued the EU single market should let her use any European provider.

"The exclusivity agreement relating to transmission of football matches is contrary to European Union law," said Kokott in her opinion.

But the Premier League countered: "The European Court of Justice is there to enforce the law, not change it."

It added: "If her opinion were to be reflected in the ECJ's judgment, it would prevent rights holders across Europe from marketing their rights in a way which meets demand from broadcasters whose clear preference is to acquire, and pay for, exclusive rights within their own territory only and to use those rights to create services which satisfy the cultural preferences of their viewers within that territory."

The full court often, but not always, follows the advocate general's advice. A ruling is expected later in the year.



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see also
Pub TV football choice 'upheld'
04 Feb 11 |  Business
How to watch Match of the Day
09 Aug 11 |  Match of the Day


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