Has Mrs Murphy changed the face of Football Broadcasting?

Has Mrs Murphy changed the face of Football Broadcasting?

Lankaster Lecture Theatre (University College London)
Medawar Building,
Malet Place (off Torrington Place),
London WC1
Thursday 10th November  2011 at 6pm

(For directions click here)

Given by: Daniel Geey, Associate in Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP’s Competition and EU Regulatory Law Group.


Mrs Murphy is a pub owner who used decoder cards imported from Greece to show Premier League (PL) games. QC Leisure is a stockist and supplier of foreign decoders to pubs and the general public in the UK. Mrs Murphy was prosecuted by Media Protection Services Limited for the use of an “illicit” Greek decoder card. QC Leisure were sued for copyright infringement by the PL. In their defences Mrs Murphy and QC Leisure both raised important questions about the relationship between the EU principles of free movement of goods and services and highly lucrative European broadcasting rights. This led to a series of questions being referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by the English courts.

Mrs Murphy and QC Leisure argue that the way in which the PL enters into its contracts with various broadcasters throughout the EU, among other things, infringes EU principles of free movement of goods and services and EU competition law. They argue that the PL’s contractual provisions restrict the ability of PL rights holding broadcasters to screen live pictures outside their own designated territory. They also contend that this restricts the capacity of Mrs Murphy or QC Leisure to either view, or purchase decoders to view, live PL matches from any source other than the exclusive national PL rights holding broadcaster (i.e. Sky and ESPN can only broadcast their exclusive pictures in their allotted UK territory). Such restrictions, they say, are incompatible with EU principles of free movement and EU competition law.

The PL, in response, relies on a range of provisions in EU copyright and broadcasting law as well as CJEU precedent going back to the 1970s which supports, or appears to support, the notion of exclusive licensing in the context of broadcasting rights.

CJEU Decision

Only a few weeks ago, the CJEU ruling was published in relation to the long-running pub broadcasting cases. In what will undoubtedly come as a blow to the PL the CJEU found that restrictions on the import, use and sale of foreign decoder cards giving access to PL matches were contrary to the EU rules on freedom to provide services and competition.

In its ruling the CJEU holds that national law which prohibits the import, use or sale of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the fundamental EU freedom to provide services. This therefore cannot be justified by the objective either of protecting intellectual property rights or of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums. The CJEU did however make reference to a number of copyright issues. One issue in particular would require a publican to receive consent from a rights holder (i.e. the PL) to broadcast PL branded logos and graphics.

The Impact

The biggest impact of the ruling will undoubtedly be on the PL itself and its licensees such as BSkyB. The PL will not be able to prevent the free circulation across borders of decoder cards giving access to PL matches. This could lead to pan-EU licensing of the rights. The PL will however be able to maintain a distinction between commercial and domestic users.  This may well mean that that those publicans who obtained Greek decoder cards intended for domestic use may be found liable for copyright infringement when the case returns to the national court.


  • You can watch Daniel Geey give a short overview of the CJEU decision in the Karen Murphy case here:



Daniel is an associate in Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP’s Competition and EU Regulatory Law Group.

Daniel advises clients in the football industry. He advises on Premier League, Football League and UEFA rule compliance and Premier League broadcasting issues. Such guidance has included advice on the Fit and Proper Person Test, ownership requirements, parachute payments and the football creditors rule, disclosure obligations under the relevant football authority’s rules, conflicts of interest and third party player ownership contracts. Daniel has also provided guidance on UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations and how the rules may affect the future financial planning of football clubs. He has also given briefings and spoken at workshops, universities and conferences on the interplay between Competition Law, Football and Broadcasting.

Contact Details

Daniel also has a website aptly named where all of his football law related articles can be accessed.

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

View all Events