Pubco to sue SPL in broadcast dispute

Lisini seeks £1.7m damages in foreign satellite case

By Gillian McKenzie

LISINI Pub Co is set to sue the Scottish Premier League for more than £1.7 million after it attempted to stop the firm showing live top flight football matches in its pub using a Polish satellite system.

The SPL secured an interim interdict in 2007 preventing Lisini from broadcasting live games through Polsat in its Angels bar in Uddingston after it screened three SPL games in the bar via the Polish broadcaster in 2006. The SPL, which holds the broadcasting rights to Scottish Premier League games and grants licences for the matches to be broadcast in the UK and abroad, claimed possession of a decoder and card was unlawful under the 1998 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
Lisini, which is owned and run by Harry Hood and his family, had also granted an undertaking not to broadcast any future live matches using the system.
However the interim interdict was recalled by Lord Woolman at the Court of Session in July 2012 after a similar case involving Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy was referred to the European Court of Justice. Lord Woolman said the ECJ ruled that clauses prohibiting the use of foreign decoders and cards were “void” as they “constituted a restriction on competition and the anti-competitive provisions of European law prevailed over the 1998 Act”.
Following the ECJ decision, Lord Woolman said both parties revised their pleadings to a “significant degree”.
The SPL removed all references to the 1998 Act, restricting its claim to interdict based upon the undertaking.
Lisini lodged a counterclaim maintaining that the interim interdict granted in May 2007 was wrongful and claiming that the SPL had acted in breach of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which refers to the “prevention, restriction or distortion of competition”. The pubco also sought damages of £1,761,749.
At the Court of Session last week, Lord Woolman rejected the SPL’s bid to have Lisini’s counterclaim thrown out, saying the English Premier League case had an “important bearing” on the case between Lisini and the SPL.
“The material facts are virtually identical,” he said in the ruling.
“The ECJ gave clear answers to the precise questions referred to it.
“Its decision means that subscribers in member states are entitled to access broadcast signals from other member states.
“I shall put the case out by order to discuss further procedure.”
Lisa Wishart, MD of Lisini Pub Co, which also owns the Parkville in Blantyre, Dalziel Park Hotel & Golf Club in Motherwell and The Croft in Croftfoot, said: “It has been a long, hard process, and a very costly one. This ruling essentially means that Lord Woolman has dismissed SPL’s claim against Lisini, which they levied against us in 2007.”
A spokesman for the SPL said: “The SPL continues to protect its position in this matter. Giving the ongoing nature of the litigation, the SPL cannot comment further at this time.”