A European court ruling on whether pubs can show coverage of live sport being shown by EU broadcasters could have massive knock-on effects.
A ruling on a case brought against UK landlords by the Premier League could mean they can legally show sport being broadcast by companies other than current UK rights holders Sky and Setanta.
Currently, pubs pay much more than a normal household subscription in order to show sport to their customers, which has led some to subscribe to satellite broadcasters in other EU nations that have Premiership rights.
Some of these broadcasters screen football at 3 o'clock on a Saturday, which UK broadcasters do not do, because of a UEFA directive designed to assuage fears that attendances (and participation) at live games would suffer.
However, The Guardian reports that the case brought before the European Courts by the Premier League – in which publicans have argued that they have bought the decoder boxes and cards legally in Greece and brought them back – could set a clear precedent.
"The strong possibility of the ECJ and the UK high court finding in favour of the publicans is a direct challenge to the right to license media rights on a territory-by-territory basis and to the willingness of pay-TV operators to pay handsomely for exclusive rights within their markets," Alex Haffner, a Senior Associate at law firm Denton Wilde Sapt , told The Guardian. Denton Wilde Sapt currently counts the Premiership among its clients.
Many of the foreign satellite boxes in the UK are registered to addresses in the countries that the broadcaster covers, but the focus on whether broadcasting rights can be on a territory-by-territory basis in a free market economy has become an increasingly prevalent issue.
Premiership rights are one of the more immediate examples of the problem with pan-European broadcasting. Essentially, the Premier League makes significant revenues from splitting its rights on a country-by-country basis – something which could suffer significantly if courts rule against the practice.
This would also impact on the funding of 'grass roots' football, and the support of youth schemes.
But outside of sport, rights sales could become a very different process. That would mean movie and entertainment companies will need to look at dividing their property rights up by region and not nation.
The third problem, beyond rights and the impact on live football, is that regulating television on a pan-European basis would be a logistical minefield.
Watersheds and what's considered suitable for an audience already vary greatly across Europe, and a formal pan-European broadcasting platform would need a whole new set of guidelines.
With the court case ongoing, those involved are understandably steering clear of comment at the current time.