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Brussels, 19th January 2005

Competition: German Football League commitments to liberalise joint selling of Bundesliga media rights made legally binding by Commission decision

Commitments given by the German Football League (‘Ligaverband’) regarding the central marketing of the media rights of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga from now until June 2009 have been rendered legally binding by a formal decision adopted by the European Commission. This is the first ever so-called ‘commitment decision’ under new procedures for the application of EU competition rules (Regulation (EC) 1/2003) that entered into effect on 1st May 2004. . The commitments liberalise the central marketing arrangements and maximise the rights for television and new media (UMTS, Internet) available to football fans. Fans will also be able to enjoy new services, in particular for the new media, that the clubs can now develop. The Commission had been concerned that the exclusive selling of commercial broadcasting rights by the ‘Ligaverband’ may have violated the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 81) but has now closed the case in the light of the ‘Ligaverband’ commitments.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented:”This decision benefits both football fans and the game. Fans benefit from new products and greater choice. Leagues and clubs benefit from the increased coverage of their games. Readily available premium content such as top football boosts innovation and growth in the media and information technology sectors. Moreover, open markets and access to content are an essential safeguard against media concentration.”

Under the new arrangements, the ‘Ligaverband’ can continue to market broadcasting rights in a manner which allows them to offer a one-stop-shop under the league brand, but ensures that the procedures used are open, transparent and non-discriminatory. In particular, under the commitments decision, the German football league has undertaken to offer unbundled packages of rights for a duration not exceeding three seasons. –This will ensure that all rights are regularly offered to a large number of operators, a safeguard againstmedia concentration. In addition, the clubs can sell their own branded services to their fans, in particular in the field of new media..

The Commission decision follows consultations with interested parties on the commitments offered by the ‘Ligaverband’ (see IP/04/1110). Full details of the commitments are available in MEMO/05/16.

The Court of Justice ruled in 1974 that, as an economic activity, sport was subject to Community legislation.[1] Indeed, the importance of sport in Europe means that its commercial activities can have significant effects on a number of markets. Competition law is applicable to the economic activities connected with sport events, but not pure sporting rules.

[1] Case 36/74, Walrave v Union Cycliste Internationale, [1974] ECR 1405.

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