FIFA and UEFA lose TV battle

2011-02-17 12:40

Brussels - European Union countries can keep all Soccer World Cup and European Championship games on free-to-air television after a high court challenge by FIFA and UEFA failed.

The football governing bodies wanted to sell the exclusive rights to most games to the highest bidder, including pay TV channels, arguing that broadcasting rights constitute a major source of their incomes.

However, the General Court of the European Union said the World Cup and European Championship were "single events" that could not be divvied up at will.

FIFA and UEFA can appeal the decision, but only on the points of law, not on the principles of the case.

EU nations can designate certain sports events to have such social and cultural significance that they can force organisers to sell rights to free-to-air companies only.

The football federations had acknowledged that the most popular games, like the final and the opening matches of the World Cup and European Championship, merited being broadcast on free-to-air television.

But the court said that it cannot be anticipated which game will be important for which country, allowing for member states to give the whole tournament special status.

EU Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said "this is good news for people who want to watch important sporting events on television without having to pay for it."

UEFA said it would study the ruling before commenting further.

The football federations had challenged the system in Britain and Belgium. The British Conservatives welcomed the ruling.

"We need to ensure that the crown jewels of our national sports are accessible to everyone. I hope that FIFA and UEFA will not appeal this ruling," said MEP Emma McClarkin.

McClarkin said every single game has prime viewing interest.

"Group matches could be very important to other countries towards the end of the group stages. England fans will want to watch the other matches across the groups to see who their team may be playing in the knockout stages.

"These matters are in the national interest and they should be free for the nation to watch," she said.


  • Paul - 2011-02-17 13:08

    Corrupt FIFA get what they deserve....

  • Turner - 2011-02-17 13:49


  • JCTF - 2011-02-17 13:53

    I know there is a lot of bad feeling towards FIFA and a lot of it is justified but lets not forget one thing. They have done amazing work to keep the structure of world football as good as it is. When you compare football to rugby or cricket, there have been no major rule changes in decades, international teams don't have ugly sponsors on their shirts, there are no cheap & common Castle girls dancing on the touchline, and the promotion/relegation/continental qualification system is consistent all over the world. They've upheld the traditions that form such a big part of my love for the game, and their efforts to keep the top level in line with the bottom level as far as required equipment goes is admirable. It's the biggest sport in the world by quite some margin, and it is more organized than many smaller sports. There are always going to be a problem within an organization that is bigger in size and clout than most of the world's governments, yes, and I hope they will be addressed, but if they deserve all this bad press then they certainly deserve some applause as well.

  • Gore - 2011-02-17 14:23

    Bunch of criminals, they want to sell everything!!

  • Fred - 2011-02-17 14:52

    Eventually somebody has stood up to the thieving, corrupt bastards and put them in their place, pity South Africa doesn't put rules in place that will support the population not the sports administrators and their corrupt cronies.

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