European official rules that cheap football on satellite TV is within rules

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An EU ruling allowing television viewers to by-pass UK broadcasters and watch Premier League football on cheaper foreign satellite channels has moved a step closer, raising fears it will threaten the nation’s grass-roots sport.

European judges were advised yesterday to back the right of Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy to use a Greek decoder to screen matches.

Ms Murphy faced a fine and costs totalling almost £8,000 after being taken to court by the Football Association Premier League (FAPL), which represents the broadcasting interests of the 20 Premier League clubs.

But an Advocate-General at the European Court of Justice, Julie Kokott, said blocking Ms Murphy’s right to use the decoder breached European Union single market rules.

EU judges will rule on the matter later this year and, although Ms Kokott’s opinion is not legally binding, the panel follows the Advocate-General’s advice in about 80 per cent of cases.

Victory for Ms Murphy would force the Premier League to review its exclusive broadcasting agreements with Sky Sports and ESPN. Tory MEP Emma McClarkin said the loss of television money would have “significant and detrimental” effects on the funding of grass-roots sport in the UK.