Premier League Fans Can Buy Cheap Foreign TV Coverage, EU Rules

UK football fans will potentially be able to watch cut-price Premier League matches, after the European Union’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that it is not illegal for individuals to buy set top box decoder cards from foreign broadcasters.

The European court of justice ruled that the FA Premier League cannot stop individuals from seeking better deals for TV sports subscriptions than that offered by BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) – which paid more than £1bn for the UK broadcast rights for Premier League matches – from foreign broadcasters.

The ECJ said attempting to prohibit 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”.

However, the court ruled against the bid by Karen Murphy, the landlady of the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth, to be allowed to use a Greek decoder card to show live Premier League matches to pub goers at much cheaper rates than BSkyB charges commercial premises in the UK on copyright grounds.

The ECJ said the transmission in a pub is a “communication to the public”, which means that without the permission of the FA Premier League Murphy is in breach of the copyright directive. This directive would not stop individuals buying foreign decoder cards for domestic use.

The FA Premier League, which sells TV rights exclusively to broadcasters across Europe on a territory-by-territory basis, has been clamping down on British pubs buying in live coverage from foreign broadcasters.

The ECJ ruling could potentially have a huge impact on the way BSkyB and other UK and European broadcasters buy rights to sport, films and foreign TV shows. Sky’s share price was down by just over 3% to 635.50p at about 9.20am on Tuesday, as the City reacted to the European ruling.

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.