Uefa backs new Sky TV deal

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The Independent Football

Uefa has given unconditional backing to the Premier League over the controversy surrounding its new BSkyB television deal.

The three-year agreement which starts next year is worth £1bn, but the European Commission's trade commissioner, Mario Monti, voiced his concern earlier this week that the deal restricts competition. He would prefer to see a contract of just one year, adding that all clubs should be allowed to do their own deal.

Monti's comments have caused alarm in the Premier League but Uefa's stand will be of some comfort. The European governing body's director of communications, Mike Lee, said: "I understand the concern in England. We fully support the Premier League on this. They [the Premier League] have been through a restrictive practices court in the UK. Their arrangements were upheld and supported there.

"They have also been in a significant amount of negotiation and discussion with the European Commission. The matter has to be settled between the Premier League and the Commission. We hope there will be a sensible agreement."

Lee said there were parallels between the Premier League's situation and Uefa's. "They are the same principles that apply to our TV deal," he said. "We went through our own negotiations with the European Commission in relation to the Champions' League rights. We were able to reach an agreement to maintain collective selling of those rights.

"We have been able to make sure that everybody benefits, that there is money to be redistributed throughout the game, that there is a sensible selling policy with broadcasters.

"We have a three-year deal, the Commission worked with us to produce a very good deal. We hope it is also possible with the Premier League."

* Smoking in the technical area during Uefa competitions will be banned from the start of next season. The fourth official will oversee the situation and those who breach the regulation could be suspended. Uefa's chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, said: "Smoking is no longer acceptable in the current climate."

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