The European Commission has made its decision that BSkyB lose exclusive rights to live English Premier League football matches legally binding. EC competition chiefs and league officials agreed in November that the Premiership's live TV rights for the 2007 season onwards would be sold in six packages, with no one bidder being able to buy all six.
BSkyB, which has enjoyed exclusive live rights to Premiership matches since 1993, used them to drive up subscriptions first to its analogue and then digital pay-TV service.
Yesterday the EC adopted November's decision under Treaty competition rules, forcing the Premiership to abide by it until June 2013. Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The solution we have reached will benefit football fans while allowing the Premier League to maintain its timetable for the sale of its rights."
The EC said commitments offered by the Premier League provided for more rights, "including television, mobile and internet rights to be made available". The commitments would also ensure that the rights were sold in an "open and competitive bidding process subject to scrutiny by an independent trustee".
If the league breaks any of the commitments the EC could impose a fine amounting to 10% of its total worldwide turnover without having to prove any violation of the EC Treaty's competition rules.
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