The Premier League & Sky TV vs Karen Murphy

8 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   October 4, 2010  |     12

Never mind yesterday’s match between Chelsea and Arsenal or any other match that any English club will play in this season. Quite possibly the most important match that English football – or at least one part of it – will be played out at the European Court of Justice  in Luxembourg this week as the Premier League and Sky Television go head to head with a Portsmouth landlady who feels that she shouldn’t have to pay the cost that Sky want her to pay to show live football matches in her pub. Should she win her case, it could cause the biggest ructions in British football since the Bosman ruling, which changed the nature of the transfer market forever in 1995.

The case is on the surface a very simple one. Murphy’s pub had been showing live football matches on Sky TV but, with her feeling that the cost of continuing to subscribe to Sky was getting too high she purchased a viewing card from and a subcription to a Greek television company called Nova which cost her less than one tenth of the amount of her Sky subscription. However, an enforcement team working behalf of the Premier League visited her premises and in January 2007 she was found guilty of the “fraudulent reception of transmissions” at Portsmouth Magistrates Court. She had to pay £8,000 in costs as a result of this.

The case has now reached the European Court of Justice, with Murphy still feeling that she has done nothing wrong. Her case is based on simple moral principle. She argues that she purchased the viewing card legally and that, as such, she should be able to use it as she sees fit. She considers that it is a restraint of trade that she is unable to use the subscription that she purchased quite legally. She is expected to argue that, in showing matches at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, she is not breaking the law because she is not showing matches that are on at the same time as matches that are being shown live in the United Kingdom. There is some degree of support for her argument from the former Department for Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, James Purnell, who stated in 2006 that:

It is not illegal for a pub or publican to subscribe to a foreign satellite channel as opposed to BSkyB and as the DTI have stated nor is it illegal to import decoder cards from the European Union. However, the legality of screening live UK football games carried on that channel depends on how the copyright to those games was sold or distributed.

It would be wrong of this site to comment upon the rights and wrongs of the legal argument before the case has been heard in full and a verdict reached. We can, however, take a moment to consider what the possible implications of losing this case could be for the Premier League and for televised football in Britain. The current value of the Premier League television deal is worth an enormous amount to the game – the current contracts are worth just short of £1.8bn and there can be little doubt that this will be a record never to be beaten if the law finds in Karen Murphy’s favour. If publicans (or indeed the general public) get legal precedent from the European Court of Justice to pay considerably less than the cost that Sky set as the price for them, a hole could be blown in the value of future television deals, and consequently the financial model that has been the single biggest factor behind the pumped up testosterfest that the Premier League has become in recent years.

It’s difficult to believe that many clubs in the Premier League would have too much of a back-up plan if the business model behind the television money fell in like a pack of cards. The very biggest clubs could theoretically be rescued by their alternative means of revenue. If Manchester United, for example, weren’t so much in debt on account of their leveraged takeover, they would still probably make enough money from their involvement in the Champions League and from match day revenues to keep ticking over. It would, however, be a struggle for all, especially the smaller Premier League clubs, who have become hopelessly over-dependent on television money.

If nothing else (and regardless of what the outcome of the hearing turns out to be), this hearing should at the very least act as a warning to all clubs in the Premier League and to the Premier League itself that they need to either tone down the amount that they spend or ensure that their income streams are more varied than they are at present. Every year, commentators talk excitedly about how valuable the Championship play-off final, while the gap between the richest and the rest grows and grows. A modicum of sanity has long been required in the financial world of the Premier League, and if this case injects a little more common sense into its member clubs, then it will not be before time.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • October 5, 2010 at 5:04 am


    Good Luck Karen!

  • October 5, 2010 at 8:47 am


    Not quite sure who to side with.
    On the one hand I would love to see a lot of money go out of the game at the top but the downside is it will affect the already paltry cash going to the lower leagues.

    But then another upside would be lower salaries thereby negating the loss of cash from the TV companies. Again, the trickle down affect could send lower clubs under quicker.

    Lastly I don’t think any football should be shown at 3pm on a Saturday on the will harm “live” attendances, and therefore revebue, at a lot of clubs.

  • October 5, 2010 at 9:08 am


    ” She is expected to argue that, in showing matches at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, she is not breaking the law because she is not showing matches that are on at the same time as matches that are being shown live in the United Kingdom”

    I don’t follow this? Surely the law isn’t about showing matches that are on at the same time as other live broadcasts, but its about showing matches which are on at 3pm on a Saturday!

  • October 5, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Sofiane derradji

    Good look Karen!Rupert Murdock what a twat.

  • October 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm


    Cuccir – That’s a point…isn’t the law that of the 3pm when “live” games are in play, as opposed to “live on TV”?

    Can’t be that fundamental as that is clearly breaking the law if it is that clear cut. You would have to be an idiot to go to court with that….

  • October 5, 2010 at 6:16 pm


    All Sky need to do is lower there monthly subscription charges & they would stop all this. Publicans are finding it hard enough in this current climate & with Sky charging on average £1000 a month for the sports package the publicans are left with no option but to find an alternative …… Good luck Karen

    Essex Aerials

  • October 8, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    info display

    she is going to court on the premis that the E.U. tradeing laws state “free trade” amongst all E.U. countries is not against the law. so how can it be against the law to buy and use something that she bought in good faith from europe. If she is not allowed to use this then the free trade law will have been broken ! Skys defence say it is illegal because greece(AND OTHER EU COUNTRIES) do not have the rights to show uk football anywhere else other than in there own countries. so in effect you can buy european sat equipment legally but you cannot use it to show football without infringeing skys broadcasting rights, lets not be fooled here folks, this is all driven by sky AND NOT THE EPL, not one pub that pays for sky has EVER BEEN WARNED OR PROSECUTED OVER SHOWING FOOTY ON EUROPEAN SYSTEMS AND LOADS HAVE BOTH, ITS A WELL KNOWN FACT IN THE PUB GAME IF YOU PAY FOR SKY YOU WILL NOT GET A VISIT OVER SHOWING 3 PM FOOTY.

  • October 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    alan Liverpool

    when you go hoilday to Spain every bar has sky football on,doz sky say or do any think about this? because sky lost to much money £ . Plus all european games are 6 seconds delay not live ? Good Luck Luv

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