The English Premier League may restrict the number of European countries that can screen its live matches if Europe’s most senior judges rule that it must sell its broadcast rights on a single market basis.
The European Court of Justice next week hands down its judgment in the so-called ’pub landlady case’ a ruling that will be watched closely by all sports and event rights holders.
In February the ECJ’s advisory advocates-general, backed the landlady who had been using a subscription to a Greek service to show EPL football in a Portsmouth pub.
The advocate general said by selling its rights on a country-by-country basis the league was undermining the European Union’s internal market. The ECJ adheres to the opinions of advocates-general in four out of five cases.
According to some analysts, a negative ECJ ruling for the Premier League which forces it to sell its European rights on a pan-European basis could cost BSkyB up to £70m (€80.7m) a year in revenues from pubs and clubs as it would push down prices in the UK.
One scenario, according to people with knowledge of the situation, is for the Premier League to forgo the distribution of its live matches in some European countries where interest in the Premier League is not as strong as in other countries and where decoder cards are relatively cheap.
Depending on the ECJ ruling, Premier League insiders believe it could still sub-license its European rights, but price levels would have to be comparable with those in the UK market in order to avoid pubs and clubs shopping around Europe for the cheapest decoder