Pubs win the right to show football on Saturday afternoons

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Pubs will be able to screen live Premiership football on Saturday afternoons in defiance of Sky television bosses under a landmark Crown Court judgment.

A judge overturned a conviction against a pub landlord who exploited a loophole in the law by using the services of a television company based in Greece.

The Union of European Football Associations had banned publicans from screening Premiership football between 2.45pm and 5.15pm at the request of the Football Association Premier League (FAPL).

Brian Gannon, 56, a licensee from Milnrow, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was fined £1,500 under copyright laws and ordered to pay more than £3,000 in costs for showing matches in the "closed period". Mr Gannon appealed against the magistrates' court ruling, successfully arguing that the ban only applied to services originating in Britainand that there was no "dishonesty" involved because he paid for the service.

More than 100 licensees are facing similar prosecutions and up to 3,000 pubs have similar satellite-television systems. The ruling by Judge Robert Warnock at Bolton Crown Court could open the way for tens of thousands of licensees to screen Premiership games on Saturday afternoons.

Paul Dixon, Mr Gannon's lawyer, pointed out that while licensees could pay between £300 and £2,000 a month to BSkyB, they could use foreign services for about £500 a year. Mr Dixon said: "Prosecutions such as this are being driven by the FAPL and Sky to protect their commercial monopolies."