ANNAN Athletic chairman Henry McClelland believes that the court case started by former Celtic star Harry Hood’s pub business can bring down the SPL – and he fears that they could take the rest of Scottish football with them if reconstruction goes ahead.
Six years ago the SPL used a court order to prevent Hood’s Angels bar in Uddingston from using a Polish decoder to show live matches. The SPL had previously granted rights to Polish broadcasters Polstat to transmit their games in 2006 and 2007.
However, in a similar court case involving the Red, White and Blue bar in Portsmouth and Sky TV last year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that banning the use of foreign decoders and smart cards was a restriction of competition.
In the light of that decision, Hood’s company, Lisini Pub Management, is suing the SPL for £1,761,749. Last month Lord Woolman of the Supreme Court dismissed the SPL’s attempt to have the claim refused.
“An EC citizen living in say Germany should not be prevented from obtaining a signal from Sky, BBC, RAI, Nova or Polsat,” he said. “In my view the ECJ has held that the object of such agreements is to restrict competition.”
The judge stated there will be another hearing to establish how this case progresses – but McClelland believes that this could be the first of many claims against the SPL from other bars who were prevented from using foreign decoders. And he reckons the potential cost to the top division could persuade enough Scottish League clubs to torpedo their plans for reconstruction when members vote on the issue at Hampden on 19 April.
“It can certainly reflect the way we vote, if we believe that there is sufficient risk,” he said. “Could this open the floodgates? That would open the door for someone to act on behalf of other pubs which have gone down the same route and they could bring the same litigation forward. It could bring the SPL down.