Sunderland pub launches bid to overturn TV football rap

Oddies in Sunderland
Oddies in Sunderland
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A PUB landlord is trying to overturn a conviction for illegally showing live Premier League matches on TV.

John Royal was fined £750 by Sunderland magistrates for showing games via Albanian television at Oddies Bar, in Hylton Road.

He was at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

The case comes as the issue of showing live Premier League matches through foreign channels continues to spark huge debate on Wearside.

Sunderland AFC chairman Niall Quinn criticised Black Cats supporters who spend more than the price of a ticket doing just that, instead of going to the Stadium of Light.

Royal had denied a charge under the copyright and designs prohibition act, but was found guilty after a trial.

The prosecution was brought by Media Protection Services (MPS), the Premier League’s appointed agency to investigate unauthorised screenings.

It claimed the 61-year-old had already been warned he was breaking the law when he was caught playing the Blackburn Rovers v Burnley match, in October 2009.

But Judge John Evans, sitting with two magistrates, yesterday adjourned the case until October.

Richard Bennett, from MPS, told the court that investigators who visited the bar will give evidence at the four-day hearing in October.

“An investigator went in on a number of occasions.

“He will tell you what he saw on screen, watching a live premiership football match and it wasn’t Sky Sports One, it was a digital logo.

“You will hear from another investigator that, having seen that, a warning visit was made to Mr Royal.

“You will hear the same investigator then went back unobserved, and saw Blackburn v Burnley being shown with digital.”

The case could not get underway yesterday due to the volume of reading, including complex case law, involved in the appeal.

A vital European Court of Justice ruling on a similar case, involving Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy, is expected later this year.

She was convicted for using a Greek subscription to show top flight football in her pub as it was less expensive than Sky.

Mrs Murphy claims the EU single market should let her use any European provider, whereas currently the Premier League can license content on a country-by-country basis, allowing it to maximise the value of its rights.

She was recently backed by Advocate-General Juliane Kokott, who said: “The exclusivity agreement relating to transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law.”

Her opinion is not legally-binding, but EU judges follow such advice in 80 per cent of cases.

If the decision is ratified it could decimate the billions Premier League clubs receive from TV deals, end Saturday 3pm kick-offs and further affect attendances at matches.