League in court bid to pull plug on cheaper TV games

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The Independent Football

The Premier League launched a High Court action yesterday to blow the whistle on cheaper live televised matches. The League is seeking damages and an order to stop companies supplying equipment which enables British viewers to receive the games via a foreign broadcaster rather than the more expensive domestic broadcaster BSkyB.

James Mellor QC, representing the Premier League, told Mr Justice Kitchin at the London court: "It is a good old-fashioned rip off." He said QC Leisure and AV Station are supplying domestic decoding cards from Greece and North Africa which allow British viewers access to broadcasting services to which they are not entitled. "In this country you can watch Premiership football courtesy of Sky. You pay your Sky subscription."

He said that if publicans want to show the matches to customers, they have to pay a more expensive commercial subscription. "If a publican takes a domestic Sky card and uses it to display Premiership football in his pub, he is obtaining unauthorised access. It is a breach of contract and a criminal offence.

"There have been upwards of 180 prosecutions of publicans who have used domestic Sky cards for commercial purposes."

The companies claim that European law allows the free movement of goods throughout the community and if the cards are available on the market, then they can be sold anywhere within the EC.

Mr Mellor said the case is not about free movement of goods but about illegal infringement of copyright. "It is about dealers making a fat profit. All they do is get hold of a foreign card and apply a substantial mark up of up to 100 per cent. They are just acting as a postal service. How do they get hold of these cards? They get them through deception."

He said the defendants provide false names and addresses in Greece and North Africa to apply for the cards. The cards cannot be sold outside the particular country where they are issued and when the authorised suppliers find out about the deception, the contracts are terminated and the service is switched off, he said.

The case is expected to last up to two weeks.