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Is Bernie losing the plot?

NEWS STORY
05/10/2011

Comments made in the wake of a legal case in the UK suggest that Bernie Ecclestone is losing touch with reality.

The case involved a pub landlady, Karen Murphy, who had used a foreign satellite TV decoder in order to screen live football matches in her Portsmouth pub. Whereas, it would have cost her around 700 - 800 a month to screen the matches using Sky Sports, her Greek station charged just 800 a year.

What with the exorbitant cost of the Sky Sports package, the ongoing recession and the general decline in the industry, more and more pubs are switching to foreign decoders even though they are illegal. Indeed, in recent times the Pitpass local has witnessed English premiership games broadcast in all manner of languages... including Latvian. The reason for this is because Sky charges pubs based on their rateable value, not their turnover, consequently the cost for the Pitpass local would be 951 a month compared to the 1600 a year deal Mick the landlord has secured.

Yesterday however, the European Union's highest court, the European Court of Justice (EJC), ruled that EU law does not prohibit pubs showing live Premier League matches from foreign broadcasters.

While the Premier League is likely to fight the move, appreciating that it could severely dent the income it receives from broadcasters, income that has transformed (British) football in recent years, the High Court in London has yet to have its say.

What is of interest however, is Ecclestone's reaction to the news since it could mean that those fans needing to meet Sky Sports financial demands could, in theory, now seek out cheaper foreign deals.

"We'll wait and see what happens," he told the Daily Telegraph. "It's not been signed off by the High Court yet. But we were ahead of the game a long time ago when we broke away from the European Broadcasting Union in the 1980s and started dealing with TV companies individually and we'll try to stay ahead in the future and find a way of maximising our revenues.

"As far as we're concerned," he continued, "the most important thing is to get the largest number of viewers possible to watch F1. We'll adapt."

However, surely the best way of getting the "largest number of viewers possible" watching F1 would have been by keeping it on free-to-air, be that involving a renegotiated deal with the BBC or a new deal with one of the other three terrestrial broadcasters in the UK.

While the ECJ's ruling applies mainly to pub and clubs, as opposed to private individuals, Ecclestone feels that this shouldn't be a problem, however, as ever, he has a cunning plan. "As for pubs, maybe what will happen is we'll give it to pubs for free in the future if that's what's needed," he says.

Now we're not sure what watering hole Bernie has been using since the Swag and Tails (above) closed down, however, let us assure him he'll be bloody hard pushed to find a pub in London, or anywhere else in the UK, where the landlord will feature F1 as opposed to football, even if there's no footie on.

In the real world Bernie, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull mean nothing when compared to the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

In other words, whilst you might be able to force fans to cough up for their F1 fix, when it comes to pubs you wont be able to give it away.

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