Bar owners in UK must show BSkyB football coverage

By Kevin Hilton

The on-going campaign by bar owners in the UK to choose where they buy television coverage of major football matches suffered another blow today (December 21) when a Hampshire pub landlady lost her latest appeal in the High Court in London.

Karen Murphy, licensee of the Red, White and Blue pub in Southsea, had bought a receiver from Greek broadcaster Nova to show Premier League games for her locals. This saved 4200 on the annual licence fee charged by BSkyB.

The FA Premier League brought a prosecution against Mrs Murphy but she argued that she had not committed a crime under British criminal copyright theft law. Mrs Murphy had already lost the case in other courts but she was given the right to appeal.

Unfortunately for her Lord Justice Pumfrey, sitting with Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, dismissed the appeal, saying BSkyB had the exclusive right to broadcast Premier League matches in the UK and it was “apparent” that Mrs Murphy understood this.

There is one final chance for Mrs Murphy as she was allowed to re-open the appeal for further arguments under European Community single market rules on free movement and competition.

This is a test case and has been watched closely by many other bar owners and licensees facing similar prosecutions. A spokesman for the Premier League welcomed the judgement and hoped publicans would understand that using coverage from satellite broadcasters outside the UK was “copyright theft pure and simple”.