At first glance, the European Court ruling that Karen Murphy can show football matches in her pub using a cheap foreign decoder rather than an expensive Sky one seems a cause for celebration – a heartening tale of a plucky Portsmouth landlady facing down the might of the Premier League. But look closer and the decision is not the harbinger of revolution it appears.
The ECJ has judged that while the rights to the football itself cannot be sold on a territory-by-territory basis within Europe, extras such as graphics and jingles can. It is a definite goal for Ms Murphy personally, who is likely to escape prosecution – and an £8,000 fine – for showing games broadcast by a Greek provider. But since all the Premier League needs to do is add a logo to all its coverage and none can be shown without its permission, the match concludes at best as a score draw.
Given the strong case for the likes of Sky and the Premier League to be able to protect their content from piracy, a draw is no bad outcome. But in the contest between the two sides of the commercial deal, the broadcaster is fielding the stronger team. While the EU decision is likely to crimp the Premier League's control over its product, Sky can potentially sell its top-flight British football content all over Europe.
Sadly, the only constituency that stands to gain little from all of this is the humble football fan. Ms Murphy is to be congratulated on her triumph against the odds, but it will make little difference either to fans' home viewing or to pubs showing Premier League games. The final score? Goliath 1, David 0.Reuse content