World Cup to remain free following EGC decision

World Cup to remain free following EGC decision

Both the World Cup and European Championships will remain free to watch in the United Kingdom following a decision by the European General Court (EGC).

FIFA and UEFA had complained to the court a British government decision to designate the events as free-to-watch interfered with their ability to sell commercial rights to the events.

Both are on the UK list of “protected” events of national sporting importance, a situation which football’s governing bodies had challenged.

However, the court found earlier: “A member state may - in certain circumstances - prohibit the exclusive broadcast of all World Cup and European football matches on pay television, in order to allow the general public to follow those events on free television.”

This is inline with Directive 97/36, the court explained.

Such events are of “major importance” to society, with “restriction on freedom to provide services and freedom of establishment” is justified by the right to information and by the need to ensure wide public access to television broadcasts.

However, the EGC did accept such events were “a major source of income” with FIFA and UEFA offered two months to launch an appeal.

The Olympic Games, FA Cup Final, Grand National, Derby, Wimbledon Tennis Finals and Rugby World Cup are also guaranteed free-to-air events in the UK.

The Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the British government the power to designate key sporting and other events as “listed events”.

However, the coalition government has sought a “voluntary agreement” with broadcasters on the rights to distribute events of national resonance.