BSkyB braces for crunch EU sports ruling

Steve Dinneen
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BSKYB is braced for a high court hearing this week that could change the football rights landscape.

A pub landlady has taken a case to the European Court of Justice claiming Sky is breaching European free-trade rules with the way it sells its commercial Sky Sports packages.

Portsmouth-based Karen Murphy was fined after an enforcement team from Football Association Premier League Limited (FAPL), an organisation working for the interests of the individual clubs, discovered she was screening matches through a Greek satellite broadcaster.

Murphy claims the £1,000 a month Sky charges for the right to screen matches is an unfair fee and she should be free to shop around other broadcasters.

The charges were brought against Murphy by FAPL. However, should Murphy be successful, the case could have drastic implications for Sky, which holds exclusive rights for commercial screening of matches in the UK. The case has the potential to open the floodgates for other publicans to switch their costly Sky subscriptions for cheaper European ones.

Many landlords say they have been forced to switch off the football because the prices are prohibitively high, giving the commercial edge to larger chain pubs and driving competition out of the industry.

Sky and the FAPL are already fighting to stop landlords using foreign decoders to screen games that kick off at 3pm, which UK-broadcasters are prohibited from showing.