|Vol.7, No.22, 31.5.01, p4
Trust-busters are being urged not to wreak the same havoc with the joint selling of TV rights by Europe's top sports leagues as they did with the player transfer system.
The warning follows a European Parliament hearing on the issue. Competition chief Mario Monti is preparing to rule on two precedent-setting cases on the sale of broadcast rights by UEFA, the European soccer governing body, of its Champions' League competition and the German football league.
UK Socialist MEP Glyn Ford, chairman of the assembly's all-party sports group, said anti-trust watchdogs should not outlaw a system which allows leagues to keep competition alive by supporting clubs that would not be able to compete head-on for TV rights with richer, more glamorous teams. "People would pay more for Manchester United vs Liverpool than Leicester vs Southampton. I understand the Commission, but I say don't throw the baby out with the bath-water," said Ford.
Monti has voiced fears over collective-selling deals claiming they "amount to a price-fixing mechanism that limits the availability of the rights of sports events and strengthens the market position of the most important broadcasters able to stump up the huge sums of money involved".
His officials are examining the scope for individual selling of rights by clubs or 'alternative models' of collective selling.
Monti said he would need proof that there was a link between collective-selling schemes and "financial solidarity between clubs or between professional and amateur sport" if they were to be granted an exemption from anti-cartel rules.
UEFA claims selling rights collectively allows it to support a huge network of European leagues and the infrastructure to go with them.
Phil French, spokesman for the English Premier League, said the EU's richest association was confident that its own system of re-distributing its
TV-rights fund throughout the game would keep it out of trouble in Brussels.
The Premiership shrugged off a legal challenge to its own collective-rights sale last year. It claims it redistributes a large slice of its estimated h2.3-billion TV rights income to the game's 'grass-roots' in the UK.
The debate comes amid the debacle over soccer governing body FIFA's sale of rights for this summer's cancelled World Club Championships and the 2002 World Cup. FIFA has launched a probe into possible fraud by ISMM, the bankrupted firm that FIFA hired to hive-off rights for the events.
Competition chief Mario Monti is preparing to rule on two precedent-setting cases on the sale of broadcast rights by UEFA, the European soccer governing body, of its Champions' League competition and the German football league.
|Culture, Education and Research, Internal Markets