FIFA loses battle to block free TV sports coverage

Saturday, 19 February 2011 00:13 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - World football’s ruling body FIFA lost a legal challenge on Thursday against a European Commission decision to ensure free TV coverage of lucrative major sports events in Britain and Belgium.

The General Court, the European Union’s second highest court, also dismissed a similar challenge by European football’s governing body, UEFA, against a decision by British authorities to permit free-to-air terrestrial stations to broadcast the European Championship finals.

"A member state may, in certain circumstances, prohibit the exclusive broadcast of all World Cup and Euro football matches on pay television, in order to allow the general public to follow those events on free television ," the Court said.

Under an EU directive, EU countries are allowed to draw up a list of events of national interest or "crown jewels" for broadcast on free-to-air stations, even if exclusive rights have been sold to pay TV stations.

Such events include the Olympic Games, the football World Cup, the European Championships, the English FA Cup and Wimbledon, the so-called crown jewels of sports.