ECJ kicks UEFA, FIFA World Cup pay-TV ambitions into touch

Joseph O'Halloran | 19-07-2013

The European Court of Justice has rejected an appeal by FIFA and UEFA against a ruling that the World Cup and Euro Championships must be shown on free-to-air TV in the UK.

The move is a huge blow to the respective governing bodies of European and world football who were rumoured to be planning to sell broadcasting rights for the tournaments to BSkyB.
In 2011, the European General Court said the UK could keep the events on a list of "protected" events of national sporting interest broadcast for free meaning that the two tournaments can't be sold exclusively to pay-TV firms. FIFA and UEFA appealed after saying they could not sell the events fairly for their real value.
In upholding the original judgement, Europe's Supreme Court has ensured that the contracts signed by the BBC and ITV, who had secured the rights to broadcast the football World Cup finals in 2014 on the basis that content was guaranteed to be shown free-to-air, must be honoured.
The ECJ noted that there had been fears that moves towards a pay-TV model would have been in place in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, had FIFA and UEFA won their case. The court said it dismissed the appeals brought by FIFA and UEFA in their entirety.