7 Ways that the EU Ruling Against Premier League May Impact You

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has made a landmark ruling this morning that will have a dramatic impact on the Premier League.

The ECJ ruled that it is not illegal for individuals in the United Kingdom to buy set-top box decoder cards from foreign broadcasters. Previously, residents in the UK could only watch televised Premier League games that were shown on Sky Sports and ESPN. But now with this new ruling by the European Union’s highest court, UK residents can buy decoder cards to legally watch TV broadcasts of Premier League matches beamed overseas.

The ECJ said that stopping 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”.

Now that the ruling has been made, I predict there will be seven significant impacts. Most notably:

  1. The number of subscribers to Sky Sports will fall sharply. Soccer fans in the UK will be able to pay much less to watch coverage of their own league from European TV networks,
  2. The value of the UK TV rights deal, which BSkyB recently paid more than £1bn for coverage of the Premier League, will plummet. When the TV deal is up for renewal, there’s no way that the Premier League can expect Sky or any TV network in the UK to pay that much again,
  3. Attendances to Premier League matches will decrease. Previously, TV coverage of many Premier League matches was blacked out for people living in the United Kingdom. While the games will continue to be blacked out on UK television, Brits will be able to legally watch the games live on television using the decoder cards. Hence, attendances will decrease, and this could also have an impact on ticket prices too, which should decrease since supporters can watch the game at home for a lot less money,
  4. Less of a reliance on BBC’s Match Of The Day. The match highlights show will be less vital to watch because soccer fans can watch the games and goals earlier in the day,
  5. Premier League clubs will need to be more fiscally responsible than usual. SInce the amount of money that Premier League clubs can expect to receive from domestic TV deals will be reduced. it’ll be imperative that these clubs keep their spending within check,
  6. There will be a greater focus on generating increased TV revenue from overseas markets which are not in the European Union. With domestic TV rights revenue expected to drop, it’ll be more important than ever for the Premier League to maximize TV revenue overseas to make up for the expected domestic shortfall in future years,
  7. Expect discussions about the 39th Game to return, as well as possibility of more kick-off times moved. This could mean that there would be greater variety of kick-off times in the United Kingdom so more games can be scheduled for prime-time Asia markets. Also the ruling by the ECJ could put the concept of the 39th Game back on the drawing board as the league and clubs look for ways to generate more revenue.

Today’s ruling by the ECJ is another dramatic blow to the Premier League who, only last year, had a copyright infringement case against YouTube dismissed by a U.S. court.

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, the ECJ 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.

The Premier League now has to decide what it’ll do regarding TV rights deals in the United Kingdom. This will most definitely be a story to watch to see how it unfolds as it could have huge impacts for soccer fans in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.

What other impacts can you see the ruling having? Share your insights in the comments section below.

14 thoughts on “7 Ways that the EU Ruling Against Premier League May Impact You”

  1. Ticket prices will not decrease. This phenomenom that you speak of where more games are televised happened years ago in the United States. What will happen is that due to more tv & online viewership, clubs will be able to get more corporate sponsorship money. More homes watching means more advertising potential. Also, they will sell blocks of tickets to corporations. Most sports facitlites are hardly ever at full capacity in the US, but teams still make profits and continue to raise ticket prices each year. The US is a very large country population wise, so sports leagues have learned that more money can be made tapping into the 350,000,000 people in the US population as opposed to just focusing on the 50,000 that can fill your stadium. Expect the EPL to begin to do the same.

  2. The one hope we Americans can have after this ruling is that the PL wises up and adopts a MLB like web service. With games now on network tv, I can’t see then going backwards, well I can, but I hope they are not that thick.

  3. Yes Gaffer, It makes sense – It is hypocritical for western governments to admonish the likes of Iran, Cuba, and China for “restricting” their citizens’ means to have access to “foreign” information, yet attempt to do the same (on “intellectual” grounds.) Now – would it also stop Sky or the PL from going after individuals for consuming the content itself? Would it also bring the day closer when content creators will bypass the middle man (broadcasters) and sell its product directly to consumers?

    I’m not sure it will be as draconian as you predict. Do you mind giving some context on how much the average Brit pays for their TV package. Somehow I think it’s way more than they should.

  4. This is wonderful! The battle of corporate interest vs citizen interest has been on for years. The phoney veil of capitolism claiming competition is best for the free market then buying governmental regulations to stop the consumer from having that choice is all to common in this conservative age of politics. Its great to see the ECJ rule in favor of the benefit of the whole, not just the benefit of the few like our American courts. I just fear they will just find another way around it. Unfortunately one sky has much greater influence than 20 million Britons.

  5. The Greek decoder costs £118-a-month. That’s not exactly cheap. It’s not like all the games are going to be available for dirt cheap immediately.

  6. I bough an HD Receiver from the middle east for $213 which has the premier league package for 1 year. renewal for for about $100 annual. 6 HD Channels that shows the games plus PLTV Shows all day. The PLTV shows are amazing which fox has 2 of them. i don’t get why FOX didn’t go for PLTV Match of the analysis, much better than their half time analysis team.

    1. Hussain, can you tell us the name of the HD receiver and where you got it from? I’d love to know if I can get it here in Germany too. Thanks

  7. What are the prices for commercial use in the UK anyway? Just for comparison, I looked up the prices for sports coverage in the US for a location that has a 250 person capacity (it varies based on number in some cases- these are in US Dollars):

    NFL- $3820 per season
    College football- $1878 per season
    MLB- $2059 per season
    NHL- $1547 per season
    NBA- $2860 per season

    MLS-$100 per season (really)
    Fox Soccer HD- $499 per year
    Fox Soccer Plus HD- $3000 per year ($250/month)

  8. Not so fast.

    You didn’t read the whole ruling:

    [b]However, the ECJ did add that while live matches were not protected by copyright, any surrounding media, such as any opening video sequence, the Premier League anthem, pre-recorded films showing highlights of recent Premier League matches and various graphics, were “works” protected by copyright.

    To use any of these extra parts associated of a broadcast, a pub would need the permission of the Premier League.

    It remains to be seen whether pubs could broadcast match action without using any of these Premier League “extras”, such as just broadcasting from kick-off only and therefore avoid breaching the league’s copyright.

    By ensuring that its branding was on screen all the time, or including in-match graphics, the league may be able to claim pubs were in breach of this ECJ ruling on copyright.[/b]

    So, all they have to do is throw enough extraneous stuff in there, and we’re back at square one.

    1. David, the pub ruling didn’t pass, but the ECJ ruled that it can’t stop individuals from buying the decoders. So if individuals living in the UK want to buy the decoders, they can watch their Premier League matches that way.

      The Gaffer

  9. And by displaying it in pubs and any type of groupings will still leave them wide open to copyright claims (says it right there). It’s a major win, but the war’s not over. The battleground has just shifted from can you buy the decoders to is it a breach of copyright to show to groups, that’s all.

  10. What about the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid make millions more from their own TV deals at the expense of other Spanish clubs??? The ECJ should do something about that as well. Maybe force La Liga to negotiate a TV deal similar to the one the Premier League has, because it’s not fair that Madrid and Barcelona can have all the money in the world and buy players from the Premier League without much hurt to them financially and yet, Premier League clubs are competing and struggling to compete with the talent that Spain’s Big Two are poaching from England and the rest of the world…talk about double-standards and a long-standing resentment that the Continent has had with the British Isles.

    1. Taimur — I agree that Barca and Real’s separate tv deals hurt La Liga but it’s not up to Eurocrats to “force” that change. It’s up to the Spanish FA, La Liga and the other Spanish top flight clubs to take up that issue.

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