Football: EPL slams EU court's TV rights stance
The English Premier League said Friday that allowing the use of cheaper foreign decoders to watch matches would damage the interests of viewers across the EU, following European Court advice.
A legal opinion issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Thursday threatens a massive shake-up in the broadcast of sports programming.
If the advice from the EU's highest legal body is matched by European judges later this year, it could deal a serious blow to British EPL rights-holders Sky and ESPN -- which have pumped a fortune into the league to propel it to the world's top.
If the interpretation is reflected in the outcome of a case where the EPL is taking a British pub landlady to court for using imported Greek decoders, sports bodies across the 27-state European Union face significant upheaval.
The EPL said in a statement that it was considering the detail of the opinion by European Court of Justice Advocate General Juliane Kokott.
"Our initial view is that it is not compatible with the existing body of EU case law and would damage the interests of broadcasters and viewers of Premier League football across the EU," the EPL said.
Her opinion may reflect "a particular policy view in relation to the provision of audio-visual services throughout the EU.
"However, if her opinion were to be reflected in the ECJ's judgment, it would prevent rights holders across Europe from marketing their rights in a way which meets demand from broadcasters whose clear preference is to acquire, and pay for, exclusive rights within their own territory only and to use those rights to create services which satisfy the cultural preferences of their viewers within that territory."
Sky has invested billions of pounds in the English game over the past two decades, allowing clubs to spend giant sums on the world's best players, but could now be forced to slash charges or conceivably face mass desertion.
If translated into a ruling, any company offering decoders could broadcast any match being filmed in any national league across the entire EU.
The European game's governing body UEFA has since football's broadcasting explosion acted to break up transmission rights across and even within national member associations in a bid to boost the development of players and live stadium attendances.
© 2011 AFP