Glasgow & West Scotland

SPL faces £1.7m claim over 'foreign broadcast' dispute

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) is facing a £1.7m damages claim over its legal bid to stop a pub group screening live matches via a Polish broadcaster.

The SPL secured a court order in 2007 preventing Lisini Pub Management showing games at ex-Celtic star Harry Hood's bar, Angels, in Uddingston.

It was recalled after the European Court found a similar ban in England was a restriction on competition.

A judge has now rejected the SPL's bid to have Lisini's claim thrown out.

The SPL had granted rights to Polsat to broadcast its matches in Poland in 2006 and 2007.

Lawyers acting for the SPL had written to Lisini in 2006 referring to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 claiming that possession of a decoder and smart card, used to access the broadcast signal, was unlawful.

Premier League dispute

Lisini maintained it did not receive the letter.

As proceedings continued both sides became aware of a significant ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It had been referred a case by the High Court in London which involved a pub in Portsmouth showing Premier League games using a Greek decoder.

The ECJ held that clauses banning the use of foreign decoders and smart cards were void and amounted to a restriction on competition.

Anti-competitive provisions of European law prevailed over the 1988 act.

Lisini applied to have the earlier interim interdict recalled, which the SPL did not oppose and Lord Woolman granted the motion at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year.

The judge said both parties revised their pleadings to a significant degree after he allowed them a period to adjust, with the SPL restricting its claim to an interdict based on the undertaking.

Lisini chose to lodge a counterclaim maintaining that the interim interdict was wrongful and seeking damages of £1,761,749.

The judge said he would dismiss the SPL action as he considered the undertaking "implicitly fell" at the same time as the interdict was withdrawn.

But he rejected a bid by the SPL to have the counterclaim thrown out.

'Restrict competition'

Lord Woolman said: "In my view the English Premier League case has an important bearing on the present action."

The ECJ decision meant that subscribers in European member states were entitled to access broadcast signals from other member states.

"An EC citizen living in say Germany should not be prevented from obtaining a signal from Sky, BBC, RAI, Nova or Polsat," he said.

"In my view the ECJ has held that the object of such agreements is to restrict competition," said the judge.

Lord Woolman said that was enough to provide Lisini with, at first sight, a case under European Union functioning treaty provisions.

The judge said a further hearing would take place to discuss future procedure.

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