Denton Hall claims victory in television football rights fight

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 in

legal fees.

The director of the OFT brought proceedings against the FAPL after claims

that it was operating as an unlawful cartel by negotiating exclusive

collective TV licensing agreements for football matches with BSkyB and the

BBC on behalf of its 20 members.

It also claimed the exclusivity of the agreement restricted competition to

the detriment of the public.

But the Restrictive Practices Court rejected the claims made in the OFT's

47-day case, stating that the benefits of the arrangement outweighed any


Competition partner at Denton Hall, Polly Weitzman, who led a core team of

seven lawyers, says the OFT, which was represented by the Treasury

solicitors, “had a complete dirth of information”. But more than 40

witnesses were called to support the FAPL, BSkyB and BBC, she says.

“We had support from the Football Association and the Football League and

a number of the FAPL members including Arsenal and Liverpool,” adds


She was assisted by litigation partners Liz Tout, Philip Chong and Tracey


Elizabeth McKnight, EC competition partner at Herbert Smith, led a team

advising BSkyB with support from partner Dorothy Livingston and assistant

Stephen Wisking, also in EC competition.

Katherine Holmes, competition partner at Richards Butler, led a team

acting for the BBC.