A setback for European pay television channels and international and European football federations. Though it is only the opinion of the advocate-general, the judges of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) are likely to follow it. In the advocate-general's opinion, delivered on 12 December 2012, EU member states have the right under EU law to ensure "broad public access" to major competitions if these are considered by them to be "events of major importance for their society". In other words, pay channels could miss the chance to bid for and broadcast the Football World Cup or the EURO. Advocate-General Niilo Jaaskinen asked the ECJ to reject appeals by the Federation internationale de football association (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). FIFA and UEFA had been opposed to a February 2011 ruling on the issue. The advocate-general's opinion is based on the interpretation of a 1989 directive on the exercise of television broadcasting.

More specifically, the initial case brought FIFA and UEFA up against Belgium and the UK. The two states drew up a list of events considered to be of major importance for their society. The list included: all the matches of World Cup finals, for Brussels; and all the matches of the World Cup and the EURO finals for London. The lists were sent to the European Commission - the guardian of the treaties - which decided they were compatible with EU law. Yet...

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