Premier League Football and Satellite Broadcasts – where are we now?

David and Goliath had nothing on Football Association Premier League Ltd.  [Sky Sports]  v.  Mrs Murphy.  This has gone all the way to the highest Court in Europe thanks to a brave pub landlady from Portsmouth.   

So what is the outcome for licensees?  We will have to wait to be sure.  The European Court of Justice has decided that it is contrary to EU law to sell Premier League matches on a country-by-country basis and any prohibition on the use of foreign decoder cards cannot be justified on the basis of protecting intellectual property rights.  However, the issue is far from straightforward.  For a start, the ECJ’s judgment has still to be interpreted by the English High Court, which had referred the matter to the ECJ for guidance.  This is likely to take some time.

On the subject of copyright, whilst the court held that live football matches are not works that can enjoy copyright protection, component parts of the overall broadcast – such as theme tunes, graphics and highlights of previous games – are protected.  As such, these add-ons cannot be shown without the consent of the Premier League.  If these protected elements are present, it is certainly not safe for you to broadcast Premier League matches other than through subscriptions with Sky or ESPN. 

The general consensus is that the Premier League will ultimately seek to sell its rights on a pan-European basis and so many question whether pubs will see a reduction in prices going forward.  What is clear is that the ramifications of the decision are likely to extend well beyond the world of football – films and TV programmes are generally sold on a territorial basis and the consequences could be huge. 

On a commercial level, the questions you need to ask yourself at present are:–

  1. Am I making money when I provide satellite sports? 

If the answer is “No”, as it often is, you need to then ask yourself:

  1. Could I be carrying out other activities or taking any action to better boost the bottom line?

In many cases, the answer is “Yes”.

There are a number of ways to make your pub work better – service and product training for staff to make your premises friendly and welcoming, selling high quality products, refreshing the premises with a paint job, linking with other businesses in your locality to provide business synergy.

An example to boost your business may be to invite the wine or whisky merchant to carry out tastings in your place.  Or, if you have no kitchen, perhaps you could link with a non-licensed cafe or carry out premises and let their customers eat inside – they will soon become your customers and they will   almost certainly buy a drink or two.  We Scots are generally too polite not to!

If you would like to talk to our business boosting team here at Blackadders, please contact:

Janet Hood, our Accredited Licensing Specialist, at or by phone on 0771 888 2837 or 01382 342270; or

Kirk Dailly, a member of our IP/Technology Group, at or by phone on 01382 342453.

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