LUXEMBOURG: The European Court of Justice has upheld the ‘crown jewels’ approach to protected TV sports events in the face of opposition from FIFA and UEFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The world and European football federations had appealed against a previous ruling by the General Court which upheld national restricted-coverage laws in the United Kingdom and Belgium.
European Union states may prohibit football associations from awarding exclusive rights to pay-TV channels and this right remains.
FIFA had always accepted that certain World Cup matches – such as the Opening Match, semi-finals, final and a nation’s ‘own’ matches – should be free-to-air. But it had wanted the right to sell matches of indirect concern into the more lucrative pay-TV market.
The European Court rejected this and has done so again on appeal, on the grounds that the world and European football championships are of considerable social significance as an entirety.
The Court acknowledged that the right to free competition was affected by a ban on exclusive broadcasting. However, this was justified by the superior need of a state to protect the right to information of the population.
In the UK the World Cup is among a number of sporting events considered essential for free-to-air viewing and known as the ‘Crown Jewels.’