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ECJ upholds public’s right to free TV broadcasts of cherished “crown jewels” of football


The European Court of Justice has, on an appeal from judgments of the General Court, upheld decisions of the European Commission confirming that the United Kingdom and Belgium can designate the final stages of the World Cup and EURO football championships as events which have to be broadcast free-to-air. The United Kingdom and Belgium were found by the ECJ to have correctly concluded that the World Cup and EURO were events of major importance to society, and that exclusive broadcasts would deprive a substantial proportion of the public of the possibility of following them on free television. In turn, the Commission was held to have lawfully endorsed those conclusions. The ECJ, therefore, concluded that any effects on freedoms and rights of FIFA and UEFA resulting from the designation of the final stages of the championships, as regards free movement and property rights, and alleged distortions of competition, were not excessive. While the ECJ found that the General Court's judgments contained some errors of law when reviewing the Commission's decisions, those errors had no impact on the outcome.

The judgment in Case C-204/11 P is here.

The judgment in Case C-201/11 P is here.

The BBC news story is here.

Margaret Gray appeared for the European Commission, instructed by the European Commission Legal Services.

David Anderson QC and Daniel Piccinin appeared for UEFA in case C-204/11 P.