SPECIAL EURO 2020 – Football: a right that is still offside? (Part 2)


I/ Audiovisual rights for football games: the battle for broadcasting rights

A few months ago, Mediapro, the main broadcaster of the French Championship through the Téléfoot channel, announced its intention to renegotiate downwards the amount of the contract signed with the “Ligue de Football Professionnel” (hereinafter LFP) for TV rights. The broadcaster even refused to honour its payment obligations, even though these revenues are necessary for the operation of the clubs.

In the end, an agreement was reached whereby the LFP recovered full ownership of the broadcasting rights with a view to withdrawing the former holder, Mediapro, from the market. The Commercial Court of Nanterre approved the conciliation protocol on 22 December 2020. The LFP explained in a statement that it “will now focus on the audiovisual rights market to find a favourable outcome that will allow the continuation of full broadcasting of Ligue 1 Uber Eats and Ligue 2 BKT over the 2020/2024 cycle“.

On Friday 11 June, the LFP published a press release stating that “the Board of Directors of the LFP has decided today to grant the Amazon group the broadcasting rights for 8 out of 10 games in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 until 2024[1].

Amazon now owns 80% of the French Ligue 1 games and is pursuing its strategy of investing in sports events (after the French Open and the NFL in the United States).

Disappointed by this choice, Canal + finally decided to withdraw and announced that it would not broadcast Ligue 1. This announcement implies that Canal + will break its current contract with the LFP, which is likely to lead to a new legal battle between the two parties after the appeal for abuse of dominant position launched by the channel and rejected by the French Competition Authority.

II/ Audiovisual rights for football games: the fight against piracy

On 20 May 2021, the Senate reviewed in public session “the bill on the regulation and protection of access to cultural works in the digital age”. The text aims in particular to strengthen the fight against piracy.

The strong increase in the dematerialised consumption of cultural goods in recent years – we must say that the health crisis has accelerated the movement and is coupled with an increase in illicit practices, which are mortifying for our creation,” declared the Minister of Culture at the Assembly on Monday 14 June.

Indeed, the whole ecosystem is suffering from the expansion of piracy, which is jeopardising the football economy. Audiovisual rights represent more than 50% of the budget of most French professional clubs. Advertising is also an important means of financing.

The “anti-piracy” project includes a set of provisions relating to the fight against the illegal retransmission of sporting events and competitions. For example, the text provides for blocking or dereferencing measures as well as preventive injunctions to block in advance infringing content such as illegal live streaming. For more information, we encourage you to read the article on Dalloz actualité by Anne Marie Pecoraro, partner at UGGC Avocats [2].

The MEPs adopted the text on Monday 14 June in the Cultural Affairs Committee. They clarified the mechanism to fight against mirror websites and deleted the provisions on penal transaction, article 2A (google image tax) and 2 bis (neighbouring rights for the press). ARCOM (Autorité de régulation de la communication audiovisuelle et numérique), the new body in the proposed law resulting from the merger between the CSA and HADOPI, will have to deal with issues relating to sports rights in its report (Article 7).

By Raphael DULION and the IP-IT-Media team of UGGC Avocats.

Sources : Les Echos

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