The Lisini Pub Company is claiming damages of just under £1.8m from the Scottish Premier League, after they banned and fined the pub group, in 2006, for using a satellite that picked up fixtures on television signals meant for Poland. Although the pub group at the time agreed to desist, it has now taken punitive actions following the recent ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) with regard to Karen Murphy, a pub landlady in Portsmouth, who won the right to screen English Premier League football using pictures from a Greek company instead of subscribing to Sky. And now the Hood family, who own Lisini, have been given permission by Lord Woolman at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to go ahead with their claim, despite the SPL calling for it to be thrown out. In a written ruling, Lord Woolman said, “In my view the English Premier league case has an important bearing on the present action. The material facts are virtually identical. The European Court of Justice gave clear answers to the precise questions referred to it. Its decision means subscribers in member states are entitled to access broadcast signals from other member states.An EC citizen living in, say, Germany should not be prevented from obtaining a signal from Sky, BBC, RAI, Nova or Polsat. In my view the ECJ has held that the object of such agreements is to restrict competition. That is enough to provide Lisini with a prima facie case.”
Father, former Celtic ace Harry Hood, and daughter Lisa have been following the ECJ’s case for the past seven years, with Lisa now an expert on the in’s and out’s. She told DRAM, “This debacle has been going on since 2006. The SPL, in my opinion, targeted Lisini due to the connection we have with football- we were a headline target! They engaged in bully boy tactics, attempted to sue us and strongly recommended that we sign a letter of undertaking (interim interdict) that legally bound us to never being allowed to use the Polestat decoding system again (when the whole world was at that point).”
She continues, “We lost an incredible amount of business, initially in the short term and then in the longer term. Consumers do eventually develop a habit of frequenting other places, eventually become part of the fabric of that pub and hey presto before we knew it, we had lost the customer for good, plus all of their friends. It was a challenging time for Lisini and we suffered huge losses. After we signed this illegal interdict (letter of undertaking), our competitors continued to have an advantage over us without any recourse. Essentially the SPL left them alone, but made an example of us.
“I am quietly pleased that a small pub group stood up and took on Goliath. They were suing us for damages in 2007, and after the Karen Murphy case, I thought it appropriate that we would reverse the stance and apply to sue them for damages and lost revenues. But it has been a long, hard process, and a very costly one. I nearly threw in the towel on several occasions.
“So this ruling essentially means that Lord Woolman has dismissed SPL’s claim against Lisini which they levied against us in 2007. He has ordered that Lisini’s counterclaim against SPL be allowed to continue and that the case will be listed for a further procedural hearing to give directions as to the steps to be taken by both sides to prepare for a final hearing of our counterclaim.”We can only wait to see what develops from this.”