'Pub landlady' decision threatens Sky football deal

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The Independent Online

The Premier League will discover today whether it faces having to rethink drastically the way in which it sells its lucrative broadcast rights. This morning the European Court of Justice delivers its judgment in the so-called "pub landlady" case that could force the League to issue its rights on a pan-European basis and lead to a fall in the amount of income generated.

The ECJ ruling is expected to mirror an initial opinion given by one of its advocates general, Juliane Kokott, in February that distributing rights regionally or nationally was "contrary to EU law".

The case stems from an appeal by Karen Murphy, landlady of the Red, White and Blue pub in Southsea, against her conviction and £8,000 fine in 2006 for using a Greek decoder to show live Premier League games. Currently, pubs have to pay around a £1,000 a month to show Sky's matches.

If the judgment goes against the Premier League it could result in a fall in the £3bn-plus it currently attracts through broadcasting rights, as it may decide to limit the number of European countries it sells to, such as Greece. The Football League would also be alarmed by the Premier League's 3pm games being widely available in this country. However, it would not affect expanding markets in Asia and the US.

"It is going to determine the way in which broadcasting rights generally, not just live football, are marketed in the EU for generations to come," Paul Dixon, Murphy's lawyer, told Bloomberg.

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