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European Court of Justice rules World Cup to stay FTA

FIFA and UEFA have been dealt a blow with the latest decision from the European court of Justice that the World Cup and Euro Championships should remain on free-to-air TV in the UK.

In 2011, the European General Court said the UK could keep the events on a list of “protected” events of national sporting interest broadcast for free – meaning the two tournaments cannot be sold exclusively to pay-TV firms.

FIFA and UEFA had appealed, claiming they could not sell the events fairly for their real value.

But the European Court of Justice – Europe’s Supreme Court – has now said the original decision in the General Court (formerly Court of First Instance) in 2011 was correct.

The BBC and ITV had already secured the rights to broadcast the football World Cup finals in 2014, and they were guaranteed of being shown free-to-air, but there had been fears that moves towards a pay-TV model would have been in place in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, should FIFA and UEFA have won their case.

The court said it “dismisses the appeals brought by FIFA and UEFA in their entirety”.

Advanced Television reports that FIFA earned a minimum of $2 billion (£1,3bn) in TV and media rights deals for the South Africa 2010 World Cup, and UEFA makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of its TV rights to the European Championships.