Brick Court silk wins victory for EC in Fifa pay-TV dispute

Brick Court’s James Flynn QC has won a major case for the European Commission (EC) after the European General Court (EGC) ruled that it is legal for European countries to ban the exclusive airing of World Cup and European football championship games on pay-TV.

Fifa Headquarters
Fifa Headquarters

Flynn was instructed directly to act for the EC in its dispute with football governing bodies Fifa and Uefa over their rights to air major football events on pay-TV. He led junior Maya Lester, also from Brick Court.

Fifa, which was represented by Baker & McKenzie London partner Bill Batchelor and Brussels managing partner Fiona Carlin alongside 4 -5 Gray’s Inn associate tenant Ami Barav, challenged the Government over its decision to designate the World Cup and European Championships as free-to-watch events.

The appellant was joined in the action by Uefa, which was represented by Brick Court’s David Anderson QC.

The EC’s case was supported by the UK and Northern Ireland, which was represented by Blackstone Chambers’ Brian Kennelly and Tom de la Mare.

Fifa and Uefa argued that by putting football tournaments on the list for protected free-to-watch events, the Government had effectively infringed their property rights and that had led to a “a disproportionate and unjustified distortion of competition on the relevant market”.

The EGC, however, said that while the airing of games on free channels would affect the profits the appellants would get for those matches, it would not infringe the commercial value of those rights.

The EGC also rejected arguments that certain games could be deemed more important than others and therefore be treated differently.

Uefa and Fifa are now considering whether to appeal the decision.