Premier League CEO Says U.K. Television Sale May Be Scrapped

The Premier League may scrap plans to sell its record-breaking live soccer rights to the U.K. market and instead issue a pan-European license from 2013 following an anti-trust ruling by the region’s top court.

Chief Executive Officer Richard Scudamoresaid his organization is mulling an option of selling the rights in a bundle to sell across the continent after the European Court of Justice last year stated that homeowners could purchase decoders showing foreign broadcasts.

“There’s not a decision been made yet as to whether we’re going to do a domestic deal or not,” Scudamore said. “One of the implications of the ECJ decision is that we are still working on whether we now actually sell the rights on a pan European basis.”

The English league’s current three-year U.K. contracts with Sky Sports and ESPN are valued at 1.78 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) and finish at the end of the 2012-13 season. It gets another 1.4 billion pounds from overseas sales, making it the highest grossing domestic soccer league in the world. Pubs remain barred from using a European card to show matches that feature copyright material owned by the league.

The tender documents for the next round of rights bidding will be released between April and June and the league will keep its options open, Scudamore said.

“We won’t set ourselves false deadlines,” Scudamore said, adding the league is talking to broadcasters across Europe to understand their “attitudes and aptitudes for pan-European verses individual territory” sales.

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The Premier League’s financial success has come from payments from British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), which has broadcast the competition in the U.K. since the league’s inception in 1992. Scudamore said that relationship counts for little when it comes to deciding who the rights are awarded to.

“Ultimately whatever umbilical cord there might be as an ongoing working commercial relationship gets severed as the invitation to tender gets issued,” he told an audience of sports industry professionals that included Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports. “Once we’re in the process, there’s nothing they can do other than being the best bidder to win those rights.”

To contact the reporter for this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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