Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughDecoding the future of football broadcasting - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Decoding the future of football broadcasting - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Decoding the future of football broadcasting

Thus far the football business has taken the oncoming global financial apocalypse rather well, the lower reaches of football notwithstanding and besides, Sky doesn’t care for them so why should we?*

What with mega-rich sugar daddies pumping in enough cash in transfer fees and wages to kickstart Greece’s economy AND give German people their pensions back, the sun doesn’t seem to be setting anytime on the rampant cash flow in football’s top level. This is largely thanks to the security blanket of the income from television rights.

But could this be about to change due to a recent European Court of Justice ruling?

The story begins six years ago in a Portsmouth pub where landlady Karen Murphy used a digital decoder to show Premier League football matches to her patrons from a Greek broadcaster for a third of the price of a Sky TV pub subscription.

Sky took her court where Mrs Murphy was fined for using the decoder, which are illegal in the UK to use, but she took the case right to the European Court of Justice who earlier this week deemed the prohibition of importing, selling or using foreign decoders to be unlawful as it restricts the freedom of choice of individuals in the EU with regard to what services they use. The ruling also deemed that the action on the field of play is not protected by intellectual property right law, the basis of Sky’s argument.

The ECJ ruling does not mean decoders are now legal in the UK, the High Court must approve the ruling but it is quite unprecedented for a national court to go against an ECJ ruling.

In theory, this means that both pubs and individuals can purchase digital decoders and watch football for a cheaper price than a Sky and/or ESPN subscription, should the High Court approve the ruling.

This in turn, could impact upon the television income for the Premier League. It has been speculated  what their reaction would be and whether they will re-tender their rights although the Premier League is said to be confident they will not suffer a huge loss in TV income. Wolves’ Chief Executive Jez Moxey says the ruling isn’t ideal but the Premier League will have contingency plans in place.

Furthermore, the ruling also stated that the ‘branding’ used around football; the music, sounds, graphics and so on which broadcasters use is protected by copyright law which makes it more difficult for decoder users to view matches within the law.

However, as with the original issue of using the decoder, a determined individual such as Mrs Murphy can work around the copyright issues, with perhaps broadcasters from overseas only showing games from kick-off so the pre-match graphics are not shown.

Whilst this may not be the big kick in the teeth for the overinflated football TV rights problem, this will not be the last we hear of the decoder argument.

*Due to the nature of the writing medium, this last clause of that sentence is irony



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