This morning a ruling delivered by the ECJ (European Court of Justice) could have dealt the Premier League and their lucrative TV rights a major blow. The case all centres on a small pub in Portsmouth and its landlady, Karen Murphy. She was fined in 2006 for showing customers of Red, White and Blue, live Premier League matches via a Greek service and an illegal decoder.
Karen Murphy was showing 3pm fixtures to her customers despite the fact that these fixtures had previously never been shown as live games by Sky or ESPN. Sky who pay £1.8bn over three years for the rights to show Premier League games are now facing losing their exclusive rights to live games.
In its judgment delivered on Tuesday, the ECJ ruled: "National legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums."
The £130m Sky pocket yearly for selling the rights abroad may now be lost, although it may lead to renegotiation of their contract with the Premier League and securing the rights at a reduced rate. With the bidding of the 2013-2016 seasons on the horizon this latest verdict could serve as a blessing in disguise for Sky.
The rise of Sky has coincided with huge drops in attendances in the Premier League and also the Football League, with more fans recently becoming disillusioned with Skys persistence in regularly changing the dates of fixtures only a few weeks before the games.
While it could be costly for some clubs losing out on such large funding from the Premier League and Sky, it may be of benefit to certain clubs allowing them to negotiate contracts individually rather than as a league decision. With Sky regularly controlling clubs in England, Sir Alex Ferguson made such a claim only weeks ago, it with give clubs a new level of independence. It will however reduce guaranteed money for clubs which in turn may see a drop in the average wage of players.
With many fans becoming annoyed by the lack of 3.00pm fixtures available to watch it may cause the traditional 3pm fixtures to be moved to separate times throughout the day with more games readily available to watch. Such a move would anger many paying fans who attend games on a regular basis but be of benefit to those living abroad or watching at home.
Sky have made the choice to appeal to its paying customers often at the expense of attending fans as well as the clubs who are often forced to play games up to 3 times a week to accommodate those wanting to tune in and watch.
Lower league clubs are particularly against the chance to make 3pm fixtures readily available to viewers at home as they believe that many fans who cannot watch 3pm fixtures will instead pay money to visit their local side instead.
For modern day footballers who have benefitted financially from the extra influx of cash that Sky has provided it may also see a turn in fortunes for them. Less direct income for Premier League clubs will in turn see less money paid out on players.
The ruling may have an affect on how clubs are ruled as a business and force clubs to also look at the wider picture rather then just taking care of their own needs.