Skip to content

Pubs paying the penalty for TV football

Pubs and bars are being warned not to screen Premier League football matches without correct Sky or BT subscriptions – or face the potential financial consequences.

The Premier League has taken legal action against over 250 pubs across the country, resulting in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of costs being handed over by premises which breached Premier League copyright by screening games without Sky or BT subscriptions.

What did the pubs do?

The pubs used satellite equipment and systems supplied by operators which enabled them to screen overseas TV coverage of Premier League games considerably cheaper than taking out a Sky or BT pub subscription.

In many of these sorts of cases, the system suppliers assure the pubs that the equipment is not illegal.

However, by showing foreign TV broadcasts of Premier League games, the pubs breached the copyright of the Premier League since the foreign coverage featured logos, music and other devices which are protected against unauthorised use or broadcast.

The Premier League then took legal action against the pubs for breach of copyright, resulting in a string of either cost orders from the High Court or settlements between the pubs and the Premier League.

Even logo-masking technology, which was used by systems in some pubs, failed to prevent the legal action from being successful.

How much money did they lose?

The costs each pub had to pay out to the Premier League range from £5,000 up to £65,000.

The action was taken at pubs right across England and Wales, from the North East down to South Wales, and the Premier League has said it will continue to target all premises which show Premier League games without appropriate subscriptions.

Why is the Premier League taking this action?

The Premier League sold the UK broadcast rights for the seasons from 2016 to 2019 for a record £5.13bn. As a result, it is very keen to protect the investment which the likes of Sky and BT have made in order for the exclusive right to screen Premier League games.

Whilst the legal action the Premier League is taking against pubs does not constitute a criminal prosecution, it does leave premises considerably out of pocket.

In addition, the Premier League has been very keen to publicise its actions, resulting in the names of pubs who have had to pay costs being featured in the media.

I have been approached by a supplier who says he can guarantee his system is legal. What should I do?

A number of those pubs prosecuted were assured by their system suppliers that it was legal to show Premier League matches using the equipment and some even promised to pay any fines which were levied.

However, it is the case that unless you have the appropriate Sky or BT subscription, you are in jeopardy of getting taken to court, the financial consequences of which can be severe.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

For further information on the issues raised by this update, or on any other aspect of licensing law, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Follow us on LinkedIn

Keep up to date with all the latest updates and insights from our expert team

Take me there

What we're thinking