Glasgow & West Scotland

SPFL fails to stop £1.7m damages bid in 'foreign broadcast' row

Scottish football bosses have failed in a legal bid to derail a £1.7m damages claim from a pub chain it tried to stop showing games via a Polish broadcaster.

The then SPL won a court order in 2007 stopping games being shown in ex-Celtic star Harry Hood's bar, Angels.

His Lisni Pub Management sued for damages after the European Court overruled a similar ban in England.

The SPL failed in a bid to have the claim dismissed. New body, the SPFL, failed in its bid to appeal the ruling.

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) had originally taken action against Mr Hood's Lisini Pub Management after matches featuring Celtic were shown at Angels Bar in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire.

It secured a court order preventing Lisini from using apparatus to access such programmes in broadcasts from Polsat.

European ruling

But a ruling by the European Court of Justice changed the legal landscape and the pub chain ended up lodging a £1,761,749 damages claim against the football authorities.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) appealed against a decision made earlier this year by Lord Woolman at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to reject a bid by its predecessor, the SPL, to have the counterclaim thrown out.

Three judges at the court have now refused the legal challenge and said they would send the action for further procedure.

Lady Paton, who heard the appeal with Lord Bracadale and Lord Kingarth, said they agreed with Lord Woolman's refusal to dismiss the counterclaim.

The court heard that the football organisation granted licences for the screening of matches in the UK and abroad with the exception of live games on a Saturday afternoon.

In 2006 and the following year the SPL granted broadcasting rights to Polsat for matches.

They discovered that the pub had shown a Celtic v Inverness Caledonian match in November 2006.

Further Celtic games against Aberdeen and Falkirk were also screened.

A legal action was raised but a director of Lisini, Lisa Wishart, gave an undertaking that it would not use equipment allowing access to live SPL matches where there was no agreement with the broadcaster.

After another live game was shown the football authorities went to court to secure an interim interdict.

'Competition restriction'

In 2011 the European Court ruling, in a case brought by Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy, who showed English Premier League games using a Greek satellite, altered matters profoundly.

It ruled that clauses prohibiting the use of foreign decoders and smart cards were void as they amounted to a restriction on competition.

The interim interdict was recalled and the football authorities amended their case making a claim for interdict based on the undertaking.

Lisini then sought to have the interim interdict granted in 2007 to be held as wrongful and lodged a claim for damages.

Following Lord Woolman's decision Jonathan Lake QC, for the SPL, sought to have the counterclaim brought by Lisini dismissed.

But Lady Paton said the appeal judges were satisfied that enough had been set out in Lisini's claim to meet the legal test and they would reject the motion.

She said that Lisini offered to prove that the contractual arrangements, which by their very nature amounted to "a restriction on competition", had the effect that they were induced to give the undertaking to avoid facing a court action with a variety of repercussions and expense.

The senior judge said: "The undertaking given for the future should not, in the unforeseen circumstances which occurred, be construed as meaning come what may.

"As the whole purpose of the undertaking was to prevent acts which were accepted by both contracting parties at the time as being forbidden because they were illegal then, when the illegality was removed, the defenders were no longer bound by their undertaking."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites