Norwich pubs hope to cash in on Canaries’ success

Pub landlords are hoping to cash in on Norwich City's return to the Premier League by showing Canaries' games using cheaper foreign satellite equipment to screen games.

Sky and ESPN have the broadcast rights to show Premier League football in the UK which means pubs, clubs and other public venues wishing to screen games have to pay a monthly subscription.

But broadcasters are being warned they cannot stop customers using cheaper foreign equipment to watch the games following the case of Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy, who has taken her case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after being fined for using cheaper Greek satellite decoders to show top-flight football in her pub.

An advocate general at the ECJ says the conviction should be overturned. Juliane Kokott said blocking the right to use cheaper Greek decoders to screen matches breached EU single market rules.

The advice is not binding, but lawyers say the opinion of the advocate general was followed in around 70pc of cases.

A decision on the Murphy appeal is not expected until later this year, but in the meantime pubs are looking to take advantage by installing foreign equipment so Norwich fans can see the Canaries' return to the Premier League after a six-year absence.

The move would prove popular with City fans who might struggle to find spare tickets going at Carrow Road.

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The club is installing an extra 1,000 seats to increase the ground capacity to 27,000 but with more than 19,000 season tickets having already been snapped up, casual tickets are sure to be in short supply.

It means watching the action down the pub might be one of the few ways Norwich fans can actually get to see the club which has secured back to back promotions under manager Paul Lambert.

A number of city pubs are believed to be geared up to show Premier League games using foreign equipment, with others set to follow suit.

Alexandra Kerridge, landlady of the Beehive on Leopold Road, said she will be showing Norwich City games – home and away – after purchasing Swedish satellite equipment.

She said: 'I did a huge amount of research and at the moment it's not illegal to have it. It depends on what comes out of this court case.

'If the Premier League win I'll have to get rid of it, but at the moment I feel I can have it available. It's worth doing, especially with Norwich in the Premier League.'

Another landlord who will be showing the action is Philip Taylor at the King's Head, Loddon, and his other pub, the Tramway in Gorleston, near Yarmouth.

He said: 'I shall definitely be playing it on European satellite, which is allowed. If Norwich games are on I shall be showing them because Norwich games bring the punters in.'

Mr Taylor said the only games he would not be showing were those that kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday because there was a collective agreement that a 'blackout' from 3-5pm on Saturdays should be observed to protect lower-league attendances and participation.

If Kokott's advice is upheld, subscribers would be free to use the cheapest decoder available to watch football matches, even if it sidesteps exclusive national broadcasting agreements.

That could also mean football is broadcast between 3pm and 5pm on Saturdays, which the Premier League says could have a detrimental effect on attendances across the country.

Phil Cutter, of the Murderers in Timber Hill, Norwich, said he had the equipment necessary to access foreign satellite coverage, but did not envisage doing it, in the short-term at least.

He said: 'From a licensee's point of view it's good news – Sky is so expensive. I've looked into it over the past few months and one of the major drawbacks is the lack of other sport they show, so by taking Sky out we would lose out quite considerably.'

Mr Cutter said in the short-term he would stick with Sky, but would be watching with interest to see what other licensees in the city do in the coming season.

The Premier League receives nearly �2bn for the rights to screen English football's top flight, but the Murphy appeal could affect that figure.

BSkyB has pumped billions of pounds into English football since the league was founded in 1992, with the money distributed to clubs allowing them to buy some of the top players in the world.

The satellite broadcaster makes about �200m annually in revenue from pubs and clubs, according to analysts at Jefferies Research. They estimated an adverse ruling could have a �60-�70m impact.

The Evening News contacted Sky Sports, who hold the rights to broadcast Premier League football, but a spokesman declined to comment on the case.

The Premier League, the rights owner, was also contacted in relation to the case. A spokesman said they were still waiting for the outcome of the case at the European Court of Justice and therefore could not comment, but added that the opinion given by the ECJ's advocate general was not a judgement or decision,

Norwich City Football Club declined to comment.

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