UEFA gets formal exemption for Champions League rights

MUMBAI: UEFA chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, has welcomed the decision of the European Commission to approve a formal 'exemption' granting UEFA the right to maintain its new approach to selling UEFA Champions League broadcasting and new media rights.

The announcement marks the end of a long and detailed investigation by the Brussels authorities into central marketing of the commercial rights to the UEFA Champions League.

As reported a few days ago by, ESPN Star Sports renewed its exclusive pay-TV multi-year cable and satellite rights in Asia for the UEFA Champions League till 2006.

Coming back to the latest announcement, the Commission reached this decision after considering the views of UEFA, clubs, broadcasters and other interested third parties. For the first time, the European Commission has granted formal competition law approval to central marketing of broadcasting, new media and sponsorship rights by a football governing body.

UEFA and the Commission agreed that central marketing of the 'core' commercial rights to the competition was essential to maintain solidarity in European football and to protect the brand identity of the UEFA Champions League, the flagship club competition created by UEFA. The exemption decision will run until July 2009, providing financial security for all stakeholders in the European game.

The case results in a new kind of sales arrangement for UEFA Champions League rights, which UEFA has already put into effect for seasons 2003-2006. In essence, UEFA will continue selling the live television rights and highlights to the competition. At the same time, certain other rights (including delayed TV rights and new media rights) will be co-exploited by UEFA and the clubs together. This will protect the solidarity structure of European football, whilst allowing new market opportunities to develop and competition to flourish. A summary table is attached explaining the content of the agreement in greater detail.

Aigner said, "We have worked hard with the European Commission to produce a modern and balanced approach to the selling of the UEFA Champions League commercial rights. The key principle of central marketing has been protected, while steps have been taken to stimulate new technologies and strengthen our co-operation with clubs.

"We are particularly delighted that the importance of solidarity and the re-distribution of television income has been recognised as this is vital to the overall well-being of European football. UEFA's TV sales process for 2003-2006 is now almost complete and despite difficult market conditions the results are good for football, fans and the viewers alike."

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