Strange Decision By ECJ On Premier League Games

The Premier League have lost their case in the European Court of Justice.

Unless we are not understanding the decision fully, it seem to be a rather strange decision.

The case was brought by the Premier League against Portsmouth publican, Karen Murphy, for using the Greek satellite decoder to show matches live.

The ECJ said this in a statement:

“A system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches which grants broadcasters territorial exclusivity on a member state basis and which prohibits television viewers from watching the broadcasts with a decoder card in other member states is contrary to EU law.”

The case in the ECJ also involves the makers of such decoder cards, and were presumably trying to make them illegal so they couldn’t be used.

In its judgment on these decoder cards,  the ECJ stated

“National legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums.”

This to us seems a strange decision and it will make it very difficult for the Premier Lague to sell broadcast rights on a country-by-country basis in Europe.

That’s also interesting because we’ve noticed the BBC does exactly that with some of their videos, and some are often barred in America, because of the geographical location.

UEFA also sells the rights for the Champions League on a country by country basis,  so they will also be impacted by this ruling.

To make things a bit more complicated – well after all these are legal decisions – the ECJ also ruled that only the opening sequence, the Premier League anthem, and clips showing highlights of recent Premier League matches could be protected by copyright, but not the matches themselves:

“By contrast, the matches themselves are not works enjoying such protection,” 

Pubs would have to obtain permission to broadcast those opening sequences,  but not the match itself, so they don’t need to bother because the game is what everybody wants to see.

It’s almost a ruling which looks at Europe almost as one country, where you cannot differentiate among the countries. The ruling is saying you cannot copyright game on a  country by country basis.

That’s how it is in the US of course,  but it’s all one country, and very dissimilar to Europe, with their different languages and traditions of each country.

And even in the US for NFL games the video of a game will not be shown in a local area,  if the game is not a sell-out,  and that often leads to someone coming in and buying the remaining tickets so the game is not blacked out in the area where the home team is located and playing.

This European ruling would not allow that procedure in America presumably, if we applied this ruling to America.

It seems a strange decision to us by the ECJ, and we suppose the Premier League will have to sell the rights on some other  basis, yet to be worked out, but we fully expect the Premier League to appeal this decision.

Comments welcome.

38 comments so far

  • NuFc TuRnEr

    Oct 4, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    Comment #1


  • sammydolan

    Oct 4, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Comment #2

    As long as i can watch Newcastle play on some dodgy streaming channel with 2 mexicans commentating, i dont care!

  • Markaccus

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Comment #3

    Simply put. If ANYONE has bought the rights to show the game, then the premier league have been paid. The broadcast is out there to pick up if you can. I shouldn’t have to go to greece to watch toon games just because its 3:00.

  • bambams

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Comment #4

    I agree sammydolan, I would love to take my wife and daughter to watch a match but you would be looking at about £100 for the full experience- whereas i can now take them to my local and watch .

    Sky have recently doubled the price for pubs to show matches…There is just not the money these days

  • hardingmd

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Comment #5

    You’re correct, this ruling would only apply to streaming content from broadcasters within the EU. I don’t expect this will be able to go too much further though. Sky would suffer a HUGE hit to their business if this happened as millions of people would consider cancelling Sky Sports overnight and get a decoder for a cheaper European broadcaster which may even be able to show the 3pm kick-offs!

    Problem is, less money to Sky = less money to the Premier League = less money to our clubs = less money to our players = the better players go abroad = we are less competitive in Europe…

  • Markaccus

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Comment #6

    Bambams, you have hit the nail on the head. If sky didn’t charge so much, and the uk didn’t have silly rules about 3:00 games, pubs wouldn’t be forced to seek other options. There will always be an audience so why can’t they provide the service. Greed greed greed.

  • Whumpie

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Comment #7

    Why is it odd? The whole point of the European Single Economic Area is exactly that, and Sky was ripping everyone off by creating a virtual monopoly and charging several times the market rate as a result.

    I’m delighted: another nail in the coffin of one of the most powerful unelected quangos in the world for most of my lifetime.

    Also, it’s likely to mean fewer Ferraris with footballers at the wheel, which can only be a good thing.

  • Super Simmo Strikes Again

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Comment #8

    One of the only positives of me not being able to attend UNI back home in the UK (bastards didnt give me home status…)

    Stuck here in Singapore studying… However they have 6 channels solely devoted to EPL footie… every game will be shown Gaurenteed.

  • hardingmd

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Comment #9

    You’re right, it’s greed but not just from Sky!

    The fans are greedy for “big name signings” and success. The clubs are greedy for money and success so have to find ways to keep the fans happy and spending. So they need decent players, who are mostly greedy for money. For the clubs to pay the greedy players to keep the greedy fans happy, they need money so they get that from various places including Sky. Sky pay a hell of a lot to the clubs for broadcasting so are greedy to get as much money as possible from the fans who in turn are even more greedy for “big name signings” and success because they are paying so much to greedy Sky…and so on…


    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Comment #11

    hmm does this mean that the “financial crash” of the premier league is about to happen if this ruling opens the door for the showing of matches then surely sky will pull the plug and the money will dry up.

  • Stuart

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Comment #12

    maybe its a good thing, get the ‘money’ tag out of football, get rid of the prima donnas and get back to actual teams of players who want to play football for the sake of it, not the pay check?


    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Comment #13

    at super simmo poor little roman eh me heart goes out to him he be flat broke what with that fella gettin 3.2 that leaves poor little abramovich with the paltry balance of 4bn poor little sod!

  • Markaccus

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Comment #14

    Hardgrind..yes fans want big names in their rich clubs, but I have to say that’s more of a side effect of the greed that’s already in the game, rather than part of the cycle that has caused this decision. I agree it does put a small amount of pressure on clubs to spend money though.

  • Super Simmo Strikes Again

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Comment #15

    and to think…. if roman is sued…. he will still have enough money to buy Newcastle over 18 times…..

  • t00ntime

    Oct 4, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Comment #16

    looking back… It turns out it was good to get rid of all the big spenders and bring in cheaper ones… looks like we might not notice as much as other clubs who live of sky’s money

    Only problem is if sky did stop giving money… wud that not mean MA gets less which means CHEAPER wages which is all sorted out apart from colo… he is the only big wages who wants to stay, could this be the end of captain colo?? :O

  • ichrisho

    Oct 4, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Comment #17

    This is a political move to keep people interested in watching football and the economics around it – like buying a pint and some lunch on a matchday… but easing the titanic money that has enveloped football and is starting to clearly ruin it… if the game becomes something that is run by the players… we will have a game like Baseball or Ice-Hockey whereby there can be differing leagues differing rules and also strikes whereby no matches get played at all… now who wants that… football is a national pastime and I believe that if you pay your Internet Connection Fee – A match should be available to watch. Funk the ads and SKy Sports pompery…

  • sammydolan

    Oct 4, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Comment #18

    The funny thing is that half the pubs around my end dont pay for sky because the fine for having it illegally is less than the price you actually pay for it….

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Comment #19

    Funny how some people seem to take the global internet as a right to watch anything they want to. The clubs are concerned that if 3pm matches can be shown on the TV for (nearly) free, then fewer fans will bust a gut to come to the grounds. Reducing their revenue further and weakening the teams even more.

    I don’t mind much if we have fewer big name players as long as I can see some cracking Toon matches and hopefully see us challenging in the league or one of the cup competitions. But many people wouldn’t be happy as our teams wouldn’t challenge in Europe any more.

  • ichrisho

    Oct 4, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Comment #20

    @19 – Thats not correct. St James’ fits 52,000 mostly made up of local people and well it should but what about the 50 million who want to watch it themselves. They pay for their internet connection so why pay EXTRA for watching football… its not correct and neither is your rationale – that is exactly how money has ruined football… They didnt have 1.8 billion deals in the 70’s and 80’s and teams still did well in Europe…

  • sammydolan

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Comment #21

    I watch it on the internet because I can’t get more than 1 ticket to see a game now.

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Comment #22

    @20 – Teams did well in Europe in the 70s and 80s but it was totally different then. If there’s less money in the English game then the best players (who command the highest wages) will be playing abroad. Other countries have favourable tax systems or distribute the league income unevenly to favour the bigger clubs so those clubs would be in a better position to take the best players.

    Attendance at St James’ has gone down in recent years, an average attendance of less than 47,000. In 2006/7 it was nearly 51,000. I’d say most of these people are staying away because they can’t afford it and sadly I’d bet a few thousand more would stay away if they could watch it at the pub for free.

    Just because people pay for the internet doesn’t mean they should watch football for free though! Just as paying for the internet shouldn’t allow you to watch all other content either. Maybe you’re the kind of person who downloads movies and music for free from the internet and thinks it’s fine.

  • ichrisho

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Comment #23

    @21 – Good point… You have to pay an extra £25 for “membership” which consists of a few cards with info and a silly badge.. to be able to buy more than one…

  • Lassi

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Comment #24

    It’s been stated above already, but the whole point of EU is to provide companies the right to provide services throughout the EU area. BBC restricting programming to UK is their own choice, whereas the Greek broadcaster was being prevented by Sky.

  • ToonRoo

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Comment #25

    When one company has a monopoly and can hold viewers to ransom without ethics then they reap what they sow. Over here in Aussie its an absolute joke! You have to buy a package, then standard def just to get high def and then rent a high def set top box you never own. The trouble is these bastions of dominance have way to much power and all they think of money whilst the goal posts at their end keep moving. Bring back good competition to keep the demi-gods honest!

  • drongo

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Comment #26

    This is good news for football fans.

    This will not cause a mass exodus of talent from the PL. Dont be silly. To where exactly….? Spain…? Italy…?
    Last I heard they were in Europe too and will by default have exactly the same legislation.

    If somebody can be arsed to buy a dish, align it to a greek or turkish satellite, and import a decoder – then they should be fully entitled to do so.

    I suspect most will continue to use Sky anyway, more for the convenience factor.

    This ruling would create healthy competition – much the same way as there is for your phone, internet or mobile phone package.
    Back in the day when there was only BT you had no choice – now you do and you choose whatever provider best fits your needs….

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Comment #27

    Yeah, but on the political topic of the EU, that might help us as consumers as we can buy cheap stuff from abroad, but it doesn’t help our businesses (including football clubs) when poorer countries in the EU (like Greece) can undercut our products and sidestep our regulations.

    There’s a bigger issue at stake here that goes beyond football.

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Comment #28

    @25 – Spain certainly have a different tax system that would allow them to pay less money to their players but the player would actually receive more so English teams would have to pay out much more than a Spanish team to match the wages on offer. Also, the TV money is distributed heavily in favour of Barcelona and Real Madrid so these clubs would have a lot more money compared to many English clubs.

    The Spanish and Italian economies are weaker than ours so any decision like this will naturally favour them and level the economic playing field.

    I’m not saying this is overall a bad thing but it will mean less money for the Premier League, less money for the clubs and therefore less money to pay transfer fees and wages.

  • drongo

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Comment #29

    @ TDS – Agree – but that issue was resolved a long time ago.
    How many people travel to France to buy cheaper booze?
    You can also pay to fly to Budapest to see a dentist for half the price of seeing one in the UK…

    It forces the likes of Sky to become competitive on their pricing. Or (more likely) distinguish themself as being the premium brand, so you dont mind paying over the odds for a better quality of service.

    If any of you are boxing fans this is already happening with Frank Warren launching his own TV channel recently – that will be the last you see of sky making you pay an extra 15 quid to watch a big fight

  • drongo

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Comment #30

    or pay the same money to the clubs and Sky makes a smaller profit than the billion odd they reported last year

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Comment #31

    28 was meant to be @drongo.

    Buying cheap booze takes a fair amount of time and money to do and it’s not that much cheaper any more. The dentist in Budapest requires time, money and the confidence that there will be no communication issues. Getting things online is very little extra hassle.

    I agree it could make Sky more competitive but that in turn will mean they will pay the Premier League less next time they negotiate the rights to show UK matches. That filters down the clubs.

  • ToonDarnSarf

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Comment #32

    @drongo Wishful thinking that they will choose that option!

  • moonraker

    Oct 4, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    Comment #33

    It’s another “european” law which proports to find in favour of the individual but totally ignores the wider issues.

    In this case if you can watch any match anytime(at a pub or similar premises) for nothing, then the inevitable will happen eventually fees for home packages will increase and the majority of punters will suffer.

    These european laws are doing my head in and we need to tell them to get stuffed and let us run our own country.

    As far as I’m concerned freedoms that were fought for in 2 world wars are being handed over to unelected european beaurocrats so they can rule us as they’ve always failed to do in the past AAAAGGHHHH.

    Rant over!

  • thepict

    Oct 4, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Comment #34

    Good, Murdoch is not going to be able to charge silly money for his tv packages and over paid , greedy footballers will have less money in their pocket. My heart bleeds for them . Remember that money grabbing scouse ba@tard.

  • craig bell

    Oct 4, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Comment #35

    its a joke that you can watch every game from our league in every country except britain. about time something changed

  • Sav

    Oct 4, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Comment #36

    Sky will no doubt respond by purchasing exclusive rights worldwide. Biggest losers will be the Greeks and Co who will no longer be able to pick it up cheaply.

  • thepict

    Oct 4, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Comment #37

    Craig, it’s a joke. Something should have been done about this. Years ago. Only in this country, would an individual be allowed to have such a large part of the information provision.
    When Murdoch wanted to get involved in American press and television he had to give up his British citizenship and as for the Premier League, all they can see is pound notes. They don’t care a da@@ about the supporters and as usual the supporters get shafted.
    Hence the crazy kick off times supporters have to put up with.
    End of rant:)

  • Toon73

    Oct 6, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    Comment #38

    Just a heads up. I’m located in Sydney and get every Premier League game live on FOX Sports every weekend. The 3pm games (midnight here) are all on “Viewers Choice” meaning I have the option to watch whatever game I like and / or flick between each as I like. Games are the played in full the following day and the periodically throughout the week leading up to the next round.


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