EC reaches deal on Premiership TV rights

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The Independent Football

The European Commission today lifted the threat of legal action against the Premier League after reaching a deal over broadcasting rights for televised football.

After months of wrangling over BSkyB's monopoly over the League's live coverage, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The commitments offered by the Premier League should ensure that the media rights are sold in a fair and transparent manner and give British football fans greater choice and better value."

A Commission spokesman added: "We are no longer threatening legal action."

Ms Kroes had threatened to take the league to court unless it provided for a fairer share out of the spoils for BSkyB's rivals.

The league had already offered improvements to open up the bidding, but after talks with league boss Richard Scudamore in Brussels, Ms Kroes made clear she wanted the latest pledges in writing.

A range of broadcasters now stand a chance of getting a share of the live match rights.

In talks with League boss Richard Scudamore, Ms Kroes sought guarantees of fairer bidding arrangements in future, ensuring that no one broadcaster dominated live coverage of matches of one of Europe's richest football leagues.

The League had made commitments in a December 2003 agreement to open up the market.

But Ms Kroes wanted clearer assurances that from the season starting in 2007, when the current broadcasting rights deal runs out, each package of broadcasting rights would be sold individually to the highest bidder, and that the final stage of the broadcasting rights auction process will be handled by a trustee.

A Commission statement today said that the League had now accepted a deal providing for the sale of number of "packages" of media rights, showcasing the League as a whole throughout each season.

Live television rights will be sold in six "balanced" packages, with no one bidder allowed to buy all six.

Packages will be sold to the highest bidder for each individual package, and the rights auction will be monitored by a trustee selected by the Commission.

The Commission said that until today's deal, it had been worried that the League's plans for 2007 onwards "deprived media operators and British football fans of choice, led to higher prices and reduced innovation".

The statement added: "The League's revised commitments address the points raised, including specifying the precise terms of the no-single-buyer rule and the conduct of the auction process, creating evenly-balanced packages of rights, and increasing the availability of rights to broadcast via mobile phones."