Time Up For Satellite Show?

PUBS that show live Premiership games via foreign channels have been shown a yellow card. After two years of cagey manoevering around the legal grey area Premier League and Sky Sports chiefs now feel strong enough to make their move and landlords with the offending satellites and decoders could face prosecution.
Several previous attempts by the Premier League and Sky to enforce their copyright through prosecution failed with a string of landlords being acquitted in civil courts after judges decided variously that equipment was legal, licensees had not been “knowingly dishonest” and the exclusivity of the Sky deal could not cover broadcasts made from abroad.
Now PL and Sky enforcers are ready to step up a gear – but is their strategy fatally flawed? Can they stop the broadcasts? And even if they win, will bar stool regulars return to the Riverside?

Media Protection Services – the group set up by Sky and the Prem to protect their copyright and which has conducted the past prosecutions – last year switched tack and turned their attention to the foreign broadcasters and the channels in question sent out letters to subscribers with a legal notice advising pubs to stop transmitting and warning they could be open to prosecution.
Some licensees who were prosecuted earlier were acquited after claiming they were unaware the foreign satellites were illegal and have used the defence of “subjective dishonesty” but Ray Hoskin, managing director of MPS, said receipt of the letters effectively removed that defence and if they choose to ignore this they face prosecution.
He said: “We go into the pub and identify which supplier they are using. We will then deliver a letter from the foreign broadcaster stating the licensee cannot use the foreign decoder card for transmissions that clash with our own exclusive broadcasts. This is their warning that they will be prosecuted.”
Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson said: “We are trying to inform landlords on the legal position”. And Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers¹ Associations, said: “The warnings will give licensees no defence. They need to go back and get their money off the people that sold them the equipment.”
That strategy chalked up a major win in a replayed fixture last week when Karen Murphy, licensee of the Red, White and Blue in Southsea was convicted at Portsmouth Magistrates . She was appearing for a second time on the same charge and had previously been acquitted after using the “subjective dishonesty defenceyâ€? This time she was found guilty and fined £3,000 plus costs.. She has appealled. PL spokesman Johnson said: “We hope it lays to rest once and for all the so-called debate over the illegal use of foreign satellite systems.”
The authorities are also going for suppliers of the foreign cards and equipment. Since the turn of the year they have issued High Court writs against two suppliers, namely QC Leisure and AV Station plc. Mr Johnson added: “It’s not a case of an either/or strategy. We are just going after people that have broken the law, whether it is licensees or suppliers. But there is a continuing push to take suppliers out of the equation.â€?
That all seems cut and dried. However, a network of pub landlords is mounting a defence and could be ready to mount a European campaign to protect the lucrative operation. The website pubfootball.co.uk is organisinga defence fund for convicted landlords to appeal and is ready to use Sky’s own operations on the continent as the basis for its fightback.
They point out that Sky has knowingly sold tens of thousands of decoders and cards to thousands of British and Irish bars in Spain, Greece and wherever toursist gather for their egg and chips, John Smiths and the latest live matches from back home despite the equipment being used in EU nations that are covered by broadcast deals that give local broadcasters the legal copyright. That is that Sky are helping landlorsd do the very thing in Europe that they are complaining about back home.
“Why dont the Premier League take this to the High Court to nip it in bud?,” the website asks? “It has been believed Sky have over 1 million subscriptions running in countries outside of the United Kingdom. It is easy to get Sky in Europe as broadcasters are aware that there are no criminal elements to using it and also because of European trade law
“If the High court where to set the precedent, then it is believed that Sky would be under immense pressure to pull all of their decoders from these countries, effectively taking a step backward in their bid to win the European market.”
Not that it will make much difference. It the screens go blank there wouldn’t be a massive exodus from the pubs to the Riverside. The problems that drove people remain: tickets are still over-priced, the Premiership remains an uncomptitive league, the players remain overpaid and remote, the matchday atmosphere remains sterile for most games.
The people who were priced out or alienated by the football will not rush back without fundamental change. The pubs will simply switch back to watching Sky Sports News with the excellent Jeff Stelling turned and Bernie and Ali blaring in the background.
Meanwhile the battleground will switch to a smaller screen as those determined to watch the game no matter what will gather around their PC. With easily downloaded software and a bit of searching it is a minor matter to find an internet link for the live broadcasts of almost every Premiership game and most other prestige encounters from across the world.
There can be problems with buffering and jamming, connection can be thrown out and the commentary is jibberish, unless you have a smattering of Mandarin but again, turn the volume down and switch on the tranny and you are laughing. That will be far harder to police, if not impossible. And it is not beyond the technical know how of most ordinary punters to run a USB feed from the lap-top to the television.
If the plug is pulled on the satellite show the pubs could be back in business very quickly.


9 thoughts on “Time Up For Satellite Show?

  1. My local doesnt run illicit broadcasts of Boro matches but there again it is in Derby!
    It wont make any difference to the number of matches I watch live because that is governed by other factors. As AV said it is all a little late, to coin a phrase ‘the horse has left the Stable’. This is not a move to get people back in the grounds but to protect revenue streams.

  2. AV
    You are right, it will certainly need more than not being able to watch games in the pub to win back the missing thousands.
    Access to the Riverside has not got any better since it was built, and as I have said before it is a minor miracle that someone has not been killed going to and from the Riverside on a matchday.
    I also mentioned Boro having a partnership with Stagecoach and Arriva giving fans the chance to be bussed to games.
    Boro should also think about ideas such as buy and adult season ticket and get a Junior ticket free.
    They could also allow season tickets holders to get into home cup ties for free.
    If the club also want to attract fans to the ground earlier why not put on pre match entertainment.
    Maybe allow local bands to play before games.
    Just a few thoughts.
    **AV writes: I would pay good money NOT to see Journey South.

  3. AV
    When I said let local bands play before games, I was thinking that it would be an opportunity for them to showcase their talents. I would not expect the club to pay them.
    It would not get me to the game before half two anyway as I prefer a few liveners pre match.

  4. I applaud any pub that breaks the law and shows these games as it serves the Premier League right.
    Going to games is like going to the pictures. No matter how good the film is you just can’t help feeling ripped off.
    Next year the bottom club in the Premiership will recieve 50 million from the new TV deal. This is what Chelsea got last year for winning it. I really want to see how much of this is put into lowering the ticket prices.
    Platini wants a cap on wages, and I applaud him too, but let’s see a cap on ticket prices as well. For me the government must intervene to sort this out once and for all as it is a national scandal.
    Football is no longer the sport of Joe public and the masses. It is slowly becoming a sport for those rich enough to be able to pay. The prices are sky high and so too is the rubbish they parade as food at the grounds.
    For me to go to games with my son is a major headache on the family purse strings but I still go as I want to support my team as much as I can and pass on the tradition of going to games with your son or daughter, as my dad did with me – fat chance these days.
    Over to you Mr Lamb…,
    PS Well done Massimo Maccarone for his two goals scored against one of the best defences in the world. Macca. Some of us ALWAYS believed in you. Thanks for the memories and keep up the great work.
    **AV writes: It must be easier to score in Serie A than the Premiership… even Shevchenko managed it!

  5. The issue is not about getting supporters back to the Riverside, but all about SKY loosing its monopoly to make money. The sooner that stranglehold is broken the better.
    I watch away games in the pub because I cannot afford to go to too many away games especially to places like Stamford Bridge. £48 a ticket + travel + meals make that a non starter.
    We need more clubs like Blackburn Rovers I took my son and three Grandchildren to watch the Blackburn away game, booked rail tickets by splitting the journey up and using a family travel card all five of us went for £60 a great day out.
    As AV has stated technology will take over you can now pay a ‘one off’ fee to an American Company and see the games without any problem, and the Yanks will not take much notice of Mr Murdoch’s squealing not when they are making money.
    Premiership football can also be seen in the West Indies in what they call Sporting Bars, when I was over there in 2004 watching the Test Matches I didn’t miss a single Boro Game.
    My real worry is all the Americans buying up our clubs, once they stop making money (when people get tired of the increasing non competitivness of the league) and turn off the TV will they realise their assets by selling the ground and building houses, remember what Ayresome Park has become.

  6. From what you are saying and what the rebels website says this remains a ‘legal grey area’ rather than a victory for Sky. There has been no definitive precedent in court, only a handful of prosecutions most of which have been overturned on appeal and the case in Portsmouth never made the news so the Murdoch Empire can’t be that sure or there would have been some sickening triumphalism.
    It seems strange that the Sun is running a campaign to cut ticket prices at games on the one hand then on the other another branch of the evil empire is trying to prosecute people who are reacting to the expense to bring the game back to the people.
    It would make more sense for Sky to if not encourage then certainly turn a blind eye to puns showingthe match. They want to build a culture where most football is consumed via a screen.
    And dodgyvision also shows them exactly what market there is for game by game sales when the next TV deal comes up and big clubs go it alone leaving them a piecemeal market.
    If Sky are trying to smash the current broadcasts it is only because they want that market for themselevs.

  7. “Going to games is like going to the pictures. No matter how good the film is you just can’t help feeling ripped off.”
    cinema costs £6 a football match can cost over £25
    Yet again the premier league/sky are showing their greed.
    Even if it is banned from pubs it will only be a temporary solution because the next step is to show live games on the internet and sell ppv games on the internet. people will just watch it at home via obscure website
    They are shooting themselves in the foot by alienating the fans even more.
    Why dont the premier league/sky and clubs look to ways to bring back fans. eg half ticket prices, cash turnstiles (i hate having to go to get a ticket before the day of the game and refuse to pay their postage charge) ,i live outside the area so cant go down mid week to get a ticket. They should also introduce sit where you want areas.
    Someone should start a campaign to get people to stop subscribing to sky sports. that will hit them where it hurts. boro are rarely on so i dont understand why boro fans want sky sports anyway.
    less that 1% of you subscription goes to boro with chelsea and manutd getting about 10% of it each.

  8. Was thinking the other week. tickets chelsea were nearly £50. You could fly to amsterdam or dublin for about £70 or less, watch the game in a pub over there and have a 1 nights stay for the same price of ticket and travel to chelsea.
    You could even push it at some airports that you could fly to a day trip to a place like rome, bit of sightseeign in the morning and early afternoon then pop to the nearest irish bar to watch the game over a couple of beers then nice evening meal in one of the piazzas then fly back to uk.
    probably not much more than a day at chelsea watching boro.

  9. Never Happy, where is Hop Toe gone?
    Some of the matches I have been to I believe the team were in the same pub but they stayed till half time, others I think they left before the second half started and one or two they didnt bother and just watched it on pirate TV.
    Talking of the cost of games i have told the story before but it bears repeating. I was holidaying with the family just north of Toon the day of the Chalton 3-0 debacle last season. On the day of the match we were tempted but I was on holiday. Went to the seaside in the morning, had a game of pitch and putt, fish and chips, son and I watched the match in a local pub with a couple of pints whilst my wife and daughter went round the shops in Newcastle (including coffe and cake), watched the end of the test match, couple of beers and a bar meal in the evening.
    Not much different in terms of money to going down to watch the match but in terms of value for money for the family being together a huge differential.
    The point I am making is not the absolute cost, I can afford the tickets, but what value is being provided for that money. For those on tighter budgets it is an issue, they may be able to afford the tickets but may well choose to spend it elsewhere where they perceive it is better spent.
    They may also find the atmosphere in a bar more appealing. They may find they can get other things done and waste less time getting to and from the ground, for those farther away that is a huge issue and it is no good bleating that if we were true fans we would go.
    Add in some of the stupid kick off times and that is a further disincentive.
    It is very complex but the key issue may be the fact that if Dad stops going so do the kids and that is the future of the club. We could well have a whole host of fans who believe the natural place for watching the Boro is in the pub.

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