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Free and single

The decision to allow the use of foreign decoders to broadcast football games is a reminder that the ECJ will continue to oppose attempts to subdivide the single market, says Paul Stanley QC

24 October 2011

Many cases in the ECJ are of public interest, but few are interesting to the public. Joined cases C-403/08 and C-429/08 Football Association Premier League Ltd (4 October 2011; see www.solicitorsjournal.com, 4 October 2011) managed to be both. The issue was whether the Premier League could prevent UK businesses from using a foreign satellite television subscription to show Premier League football matches at a lower cost than that charged by the ‘official’ UK satellite provider, BSkyB. The ECJ held that they could not.

Premier League matches are not of equal interest to viewers in every EU country – an English viewer will pay more to watch a match than, say, a Greek viewer. So the Premier League would ideally maximise its income by charging more to English subscribers than to Greek ones. Such price discrimination, whereby the seller tries to extract the maximum that each consumer is willing to pay – charging more to those who value the thing that is being sold – is pe...

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