Norwich City fans left in limbo as MP Chloe Smith gets involved in pubs screenings wrangle

Confusion looks set to continue for Norwich fans wanting to watch their team's matches in the city's pubs.

For the opening months of the 2011-12 Premier League season pubs had been taking advantage of a legal wrangle over rights to screen matches via European broadcasters.

But Canaries supporters have been left in limbo since the start of December when some pubs' services suddenly stopped showing Saturday 3pm matches, such as today's match away at West Bromwich Albion.

In October the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy, who had been using a foreign decoder to screen Premier League matches.

The court said an exclusive system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches in different European Union (EU) countries – effectively stopping fans watching the broadcasts with a decoder card in other member states – was 'contrary to EU law'.

The Premier League, the rights owner, however claimed a partial victory as the ECJ stated it maintained the copyright for some sections of the broadcast. Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has now stepped in to try and get answers for an estimated 160 publicans in Norwich who have paid for a package supplied by the commercial firm Via Sat, in Latvia, which is no longer screening the 3pm Saturday matches.

Miss Smith has asked secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, to outline the next steps in existing legal actions.

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Miss Smith said: 'Clearly this is an extremely complex and confusing legal situation. Obviously it's also an economic problem for struggling pubs for every week of the season which passes.

'The 3pm Canaries matches are really important for our pubs.'

As reported yesterday, management of The Earlham Arms pub cited the loss of trade from not being able to screen the matches as one of the reasons it had to close.

- Follow this afternoon's match at West Brom at www.pinkun.com and see Monday's paper for all the reaction to the latest match in City's Premier League adventure.

- Is your pub struggling due to the loss of the matches? Call David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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