Sunday 18 February 2018

Sky-high fees for football at risk as pubs enjoy a result

Mark Hilliard

THE landlady at the centre of an historic European legal ruling on the screening of English Premier League football matches sent a message of solidarity to Irish publicans last night.

Portsmouth publican Karen Murphy -- whose family hails from Cork -- said that she understood Irish pubs were struggling and hoped her fight against Sky would help make things more affordable.

"Tell them to ring me for advice," she quipped from her pub last night where she was celebrating her victory.

Ms Murphy was fined almost £8,000 (€9,300) after she was caught using a cheaper Greek satellite decoder to show live games.

However, she took her case to the European Court of Justice and it ruled that she was not doing anything illegal.

In Ireland pubs pay up to €800 a month to screen Premier League games from Sky.

Last night, a satellite provider source told the Irish Independent that the ruling would inevitably lead to a surge of private homes seeking out foreign cards which are relatively easy to come by.

Pubs around Ireland are eagerly awaiting legal advice through the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) to see how the ruling might affect them; while the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents Dublin publicans, is to seek a meeting with Sky Ireland.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Ms Murphy said she was aware the Irish publicans faced the same financial difficulties as in the UK.

"I think (the use of foreign decoders) is common everywhere because pubs can't afford Sky prices," she said.

"I would say watch this space because obviously they have to go back and wait for the High Court stamp of approval (in the UK, which is expected to support the European Court of Justice's decision).

"Freedom of choice is what matters but a lot of publicans are going out of business."


Last night, VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said: "We are awaiting further clarification on this ruling and its application in Ireland."

While similar cheaper cards are thought to be used in pubs here already, the extent is difficult to establish because in the past nobody wanted to attract attention.

However, details about how and where to buy cheap decoders are readily available on the internet.

The decoders are sourced from legitimate television service providers who own cheaper distribution rights in other parts of Europe.

"They are very common," an industry source said last night.

"Given the amount of publicity around it and given the backing of this directive, I think a lot of dealers will be more comfortable selling these in the open."

Irish Independent

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