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Football´s own goal • chrishenrick
Football's own goal
EXPATS COULD benefit from true ‘television without frontiers’ after a landmark decision by a judge in the European Court of Justice regarding football broadcasting rights.
Giving a legal opinion, Advocate General JulianeKokott found against the Football Association Premier League over exclusive agreements relating to the transmission of matches.
The controversial matter – referred to Europe from the High Court in the UK – will now go to a full session of the ECJ. While an Advocate General’s opinion is not binding, the court usually follows the advice made by the senior and eminent former judges employed for their guidance.
However, should the court uphold the legal opinion, satellite broadcasters like Sky could be forced to change their current position and make programmes easily accessible.
The case centres on Karen Murphy – a Portsmouth pub landlady – who is defending her right to show Premier League matches to customers beamed in from Greece and using an imported decoder.
She has taken the case through the British courts and across the Channel to champion her right to use the Greek system rather than paying more to Sky, which holds the UK broadcasting rights.
The landlady went to appeal after being fined £8,000 for showing the football and was joined in Luxembourg by a civil case against two importers of decoder cars. A decision is expected later this year.
Attorney GeneralKokott – one of eight advocate generals of the European Court of Justice – believes selling rights on a territory-by-territory basis was contrary to EU law and “a serious impairment of freedom to provide services.”
And she said: “The economic exploitation of the (television) rights is not undermined by the use of foreign decoder cards as the corresponding charges have been paid for those cards.”
The judge said Karen Murphy had paid the legitimate rights owner in Greece. “Whilst those rights are not as high as the charges imposed in the UK there is no specificright to charge different prices for a work in each member state”
And according to the Advocate General it formed part of the logic of the internal market that price differences across Europe would be offset by trade. “The marketing of broadcasting rights on the basis of territorial exclusivity is tantamount to profiting from the elimination of the internal market.”
Should the ECJ uphold the appeal, the decision will affect not only football and a financial model that has underpinned the Premier League for years, but also the way expats on the Costa Blanca watch television.
David Burrage of the British Expats Association believes the court could underline the EU’s television without frontiers directive which came into force in December 2007.
“This will mean that BSkyB will no longer have a monopoly on media entertainment in the UK, Germany and Italy, including live football. It will also not be able to refuse the issue of Sky viewing cards to expats resident elsewhere within the EU or the export of their own Sky digiboxes.
“We have been saying this for a long time now and included a bulletin on our website a long time ago. Others dismissed our opinion – which is now shared by the Advocate General.”