ECJ to rule on crucial sports broadcasting case

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will hand down a crucial ruling today in a long-awaited case involving a pub landlady that could have huge implications for the sports broadcasting rights sector.

The ECJ will rule on whether the English Premier League should be allowed to continue selling broadcast rights on a territory-by-territory basis in Europe. In February, ECJ advocate-general Juliane Kokott backed Karen Murphy, who was originally fined for using a satellite card from a Greek broadcaster rather than the more expensive Sky Sports service, which was the exclusive live Premier League rights-holder in the UK at the time.

Kokott’s ‘opinion’ stated that “the exclusivity rights in question have the effect of partitioning the internal market into quite separate national markets, something which constitutes a serious impairment of the freedom to provide services”. She added that “territorial exclusivity agreements relating to the transmission of football matches are contrary to EU law”.

Although the opinion was non-binding, ECJ judges have a track record of backing the initial judgement in the majority of cases. According to AFP, when Murphy took over The Red White & Blue pub in Portsmouth, England in 2004, she cancelled the licence to show Premier League matches with Sky Sports and signed up with Nova, which she said cost around £6,200 less per year than the service with the official UK pay-TV live rights-holder.

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