According to BBC Wales, pubs in Cardiff and Swansea suspected of showing English Premier League football matches illegally using foreign satellites face prosecution. A private investigation firm acting on behalf of the Premier League’s has visited nearly 200 pubs in south Wales, it is understood. 2013/14 marks the first EPL season that both Cardiff and Swansea are playing in the top flight.
According to reports, the EPL is planning to bring up to 100 prosecutions across Wales and England this season, with the first set be against The Rhyddings Hotel in Brynmill, Swansea.
Many south Wales pubs have subscriptions with foreign channels and show the teams’ 15:00 GMT Saturday Premier League kick-offs, which are unavailable on the Premier League’s authorised UK broadcasters – Sky Sports and BT Sport – at the kick-off time.
By showing the foreign channels, the Premier League contends that the pubs are in breach of copyright law.
In 2011, Karen Murphy, a Portsmouth pub landlady, won a court case against the Premier League, with the European Court of Justice effectively ruling that it is legal to buy a TV subscription from anywhere in the EU.
The EPL and its broadcast partners contend however, that when a pub or club uses such a subscription to screen games, it is in breach of copyright law if the League’s logo is shown in on-screen graphics, or if the League’s anthem is heard before kick-off or at half time.
Dan Johnson, the Premier League’s director of communications, noted that BT Sport and Sky Sports invest huge amounts of money in the Premier League which was in turn invested by the clubs in new stadia, developing players, acquiring players, the whole range of things that make Premier League football so popular. “So anything that damages the ability of broadcasters to invest in that has the potential to damage the ability of the clubs to invest in that,” he warned, adding that the EPL wanted to help pubs and educate licensees. “So if in the first instance – they say ‘we hear you, we’ll get rid of this system and we’ll get a legitimate one’ – they will face no further action and we don’t want to be going round the country prosecuting pubs and licensees,” he advised. “However if they choose not to, they face the very real prospect of prosecution.”
The action against The Rhyddings Hotel in Swansea is expected to be heard in the next few weeks.
According to Neil Mohring, partner at global law firm Eversheds, the Premier League’s targeting of pubs illegally showing foreign broadcasts of Premier League matches is a natural consequence of the Murphy case. “Whilst it would be very difficult to target every pub illegally showing games, the Premier League will hope that the publicity surrounding its increased activity will deter others. Television revenue is fundamental to the success of the Premier League and therefore it is no surprise that this is a priority. Many pubs would argue that the Premier League’s official packages are too expensive, so the Premier League is more likely to increase its revenue and decrease illegal activity if it combines this increased targeting with a push to make the official packages more accessible,” he advised.