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EU court blow for broadcasters

The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice has put forward the view that it is against EU law to stop broadcasters across the continent from showing football matches using foreign decoder cards.

Juliane Kokott gave her thoughts to judges at the ECJ, who are expected to deliver their verdict on an issue that could have major ramifications on the Premier League and Sky later this year.

In a press release, the ECJ revealed: ''In the view of Advocate General Kokott, territorial exclusivity agreements relating to the transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law. European Union law does not make it possible to prohibit the live transmission of Premier League football matches in pubs by means of foreign decoder cards.''

The Football Association Premier League Ltd (FAPL) is attempting to stop the practice by means of a judicial ruling, after a Hampshire pub owner, Karen Murphy, found a cheaper means of screening Premier League games by subscribing to a Greek broadcaster, NOVA.

The FAPL argues that such subscriptions are in breach of UK copyright law, as they do not screen games through an authorised broadcaster.

However, Kokott said: "The freedom to provide services is also in line with the Satellite and Cable Directive and with European competition law. Equally, neither does the Conditional Access Directive constitute a barrier to the use of foreign decoder cards."

While it may deliver a significant blow to those seeking exclusive rights in the UK, Kokott's opinion is "not binding on the Court of Justice" and the ECJ judges will now consider their own verdict in "complete independence".

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