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8 February 1999
DENTON Hall has secured a victory for the FA Premier League (FAPL) over the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in a case estimated to have cost u30m inlegal fees.The director of the OFT brought proceedings against the FAPL after claimsthat it was operating as an unlawful cartel by negotiating exclusivecollective TV licensing agreements for football matches with BSkyB and theBBC on behalf of its 20 members.It also claimed the exclusivity of the agreement restricted competition tothe detriment of the public.But the Restrictive Practices Court rejected the claims made in the OFT's47-day case, stating that the benefits of the arrangement outweighed anydisadvantages.Competition partner at Denton Hall, Polly Weitzman, who led a core team ofseven lawyers, says the OFT, which was represented by the Treasurysolicitors, "had a complete dirth of information". But more than 40witnesses were called to support the FAPL, BSkyB and BBC, she says."We had support from the Football Association and the Football League anda number of the FAPL members including Arsenal and Liverpool," addsWeitzman.She was assisted by litigation partners Liz Tout, Philip Chong and TraceyPetter.Elizabeth McKnight, EC competition partner at Herbert Smith, led a teamadvising BSkyB with support from partner Dorothy Livingston and assistantStephen Wisking, also in EC competition.Katherine Holmes, competition partner at Richards Butler, led a teamacting for the BBC.
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