Landlady scores victory in pub TV battle

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A pub landlady has won her legal battle to overturn her conviction for using foreign decoders to show Premier League football matches.

It was conceded in the High Court yesterday that Karen Murphy’s appeal over using a cheaper Greek decoder in her Portsmouth pub to bypass controls over match screening must be allowed.

The concession follows a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that found partly in her favour on various issues of law.

But a judge made clear that many other complex issues regarding the wider legality of screening matches would have to be decided “at a later date”.

Instead of using Sky, which has the rights to screen the Premier League in the UK, Ms Murphy used the Greek station Nova’s coverage in her pub, which was cheaper than the equivalent Sky package.

She paid £800 a year for a Greek decoder, saying she “couldn’t afford” Sky’s charge of £700 a month.

She took her fight for the right to use the cheaper provider to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ruled in October 2011 that having an exclusive system was “contrary to EU law”.

But the Premier League claimed a partial victory, after the ECJ said it maintained the copyright for some sections of the broadcast.

Mrs Murphy, who ran The Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth, Hampshire, said she believed she had won “90 per cent” of the battle.

The ruling was enough for all sides to concede at London’s High Court that Ms Murphy’s conviction could not stand – though many issues over screening games remain outstanding.

Mrs Murphy took her fight to the ECJ after being ordered to pay almost £8,000 in fines and costs.

The case is being seen as of importance to the way future soccer TV rights are sold and could have a crucial impact on the entire game.

Mrs Murphy, 47, said after the hearing that she was “over the moon”.

“Brilliant, that’s how I feel,” she said outside court. “Fantastic.”

She added: “I was morally and legally right.”

Asked whether she would show more games, she replied: “Watch this space - if I can, I will.”

Mrs Murphy said: “It’s great news for pubs,” she said. “I hope it changes the face of football.”

She said the stakes had been high and added: “It could have been my house, my pub, everything.”

But she said she was “determined” to fight. She added: “It’s a moral victory. This was big corporations thinking they are above the law.”

Mrs Murphy said she planned to drink to her success, adding: “I shall go off to have the largest sambuca in the world.”

Dave Atkinson, one of Mrs Murphy’s supporters, said outside court that he had faced similar difficulties when running a bar called Idols in Kendal, Cumbria.

“I have been following this case for years,” said Mr Atkinson, 65, who no longer runs the bar. “I was in a very similar position.”

He added: “This is good news for the general public – as well as for pubs.”