G4S inspects Sky Italia cards in pubs

* By John Harrington

Sky Italia is paying international security firm G4S to check if pubs are using its cards to broadcast Premier League football.

The MA has a copy of the letter being handed out by G4S staff to licensees stating G4S has been authorised by the broadcaster to “inspect and be granted access to” Sky Italia viewing cards.

If access is denied, “Sky Italia will take legal action to recover its property”.

The MA has also spoken to operators who say they have been visited by representatives of G4S who ask to examine the Sky Italia cards and take down the card numbers.

In the summer Sky Italia warned it would “stamp out” use of the cards, which are being sold to pubs by dealers in the UK, by terminating broadcasts at source.

One unnamed multiple operator said he has received visits from G4S staff and has heard of “dozens” of pubs with similar experiences.

“They have been almost ‘marching’ in to our public houses and accusing us of illegal activity. This is an invasion of our privacy.”

The multiple operator, based in northern England, said he saves around 50% by choosing Sky Italia.

'Private army'

Solicitor Paul Dixon, of Molesworths Bright Clegg, who is representing licensee Karen Murphy in her landmark foreign satellite appeal in Europe, said it “smacks of desperation”, coming weeks before the judgement of the Advocate-General from the European Court of Justice.

“Sky Italia know they cannot enforce their contractual restrictions through the UK courts while the test cases are pending before the European Court, so it appears they have resorted to using a private uniformed army.” He said licensees are entitled to refuse G4S staff access."

A Sky Italia spokesman said: "Sky Italia has appointed representatives G4S for the purpose of verifying the unauthorised use of Sky Italia residential viewing cards in the UK. Sky Italia subscribers are authorised to use these cards exclusively in Italy and their use in commercial premises is prohibited.

"The Company has the right to enforce the terms of the subscriber contract wherever a card is used. Viewing cards remain the property of Sky Italia and must be returned to the Company upon request. Where necessary, Sky Italia will take appropriate legal action to recover its property."