Satellite football saga continues

Napthens - September 17th 2012

There have been a number of recent developments in the on-going saga surrounding the screening of foreign satellite football in pubs. 

Last month Lord Justice Stanley Burton upheld the decision made in the Chester Magistrates Court in October 2011 and dismissed the appeal brought by Media Protection Services (MPS) against the licensees at the Railway Inn in Helsby, Mr & Mrs Crawford. This High Court decision stated that the appeal brought by MPS, acting on behalf of the FA Premier League, was "incompetent" and "void, and should therefore be dismissed". It was held that MPS was "not acting in their own right but on behalf of FAPL for reward". Ray Hoskin (deceased), of MPS, had "acted as a solicitor within the meaning and in breach of section 20 of the 1974 Solicitors Act. He was not an authorised litigator".

A Premier League spokesperson said that the "judgment is in regard to a legal technicality and does not change the fact that we have copyright protected works in our broadcast. Publicans should be aware that legal action will be taken against those using unauthorised systems and cards to show live premier league matches in a pub or other commercial premises". 

As a result of this judgment, it has been suggested that actions brought by the Premier League post-2005 could be classed as "void". Further ongoing cases may also be effected depending on whether the Premier League appeals the High Court's decision. A Premier League spokesperson stated that "The Crawford judgment expressly states that it applies only to this case and therefore has no automatic impact on other prosecutions", but solicitors representing the licensees were quick to argue otherwise, stating that "any suggestion that a High Court judgment does not have implications for other similar cases is quite simply wrong. In the course of the appeal hearing Lord Justice Stanley Burnton commented that the outcome of Mr and Mrs Crawford's case could have far reaching implications." 

As a consequence the Premier League have recently announced that they will no longer be using MPS to prosecute in these cases. They have confirmed that they will now undertake an "investigative role" rather than a "prosecuting role". 

As a result of the Crawford judgement, three licensees had prosecutions thrown out of the Magistrates Court on 22nd, 23rd and 24th August. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) instigated these prosecutions for the licensees allegedly showing sky domestic broadcasts, but FACT were criticised for bringing "sloppy prosecutions". 

It is highly likely that the Crawford judgment will be the subject of further testing and subsequent clarification in the Courts, so the situation remains unclear and licensees should still tread with caution.