Today’s ruling in Europe on the legality of foreign satellite decoders is not a “green light” for pubs to start using the systems, warns the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that restricting the sale of foreign satellite decoder cards is “contrary to the freedom to provide services”. The UK Court of Appeal had asked the court to clarify in the case of Portsmouth pub licensee Karen Murphy, who had been prosecuted for screening games via a Greek decoder card, and foreign satellite suppliers. The judgement would need to be implemented by the Court of Appeal in the UK. Kate Nicholls, head of strategy at the ALMR, said: “We welcome the recognition by the court that the system put in place by Premier League is unfair and results in publicans paying a disproportionately high price for sports broadcasting. For too long, pubs have been footing Sky’s debt to the Premier League. The court is quite clear that that is not only wrong, it is anti-competitive. “The ruling is only the start of the process, however. Whilst it clarifies what is not allowed, it will be down to the UK courts to implement and apply it in practice. There are many hoops to go through before pubs get a fairer deal - but today’s judgement holds out that prospect in the future. Premier League and Sky are on notice. “This is not a green light for pubs to start using foreign satellite services now. The ruling is clear that whilst foreign satellite cards may be imported their use is a different matter and pubs would need permission to broadcast under any new system. “This is far from clearcut and the implications will take time to feed through. In the meantime, UK law still outlaws their use — proceed with caution.” Meanwhile, British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “At last, the end is in sight to years of uncertainty surrounding this issue. The UK authorities should now very quickly clarify the position in UK law so pubs know exactly where they stand. “Perhaps now, football will become more affordable for pubs, as live sport is a key ingredient of a great pub for millions of customers. “The underlying driver of the problem has been the big price hikes that Sky have levied, with a 20 per cent last year alone. These have been a big drain on pubs.”

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