July 25 – The Nanterre Commercial court in France has ruled against beIN Sports in its request to make Canal+ fulfil its contract and pay €330 million in rights fees for live broadcast of Ligue 1 matches. Canal + said it was suspending its sub-licensing contract with beIN after Ligue 1 licensed rights to Amazon.
However the court added a twist to the judgement saying that Canal+ cannot suspend its sub-licence contract with beIN Sports, if beIN Sports follows a Canal+ request to sue the League.
beIN Sports are now left with little option but to sue the league for €330 million plus damages – something beIN would rather not do as they feel there is a much bigger legal case in preparation and that it is not helpful for the French professional game, though you could argue that the French league has hit a self destruct button over its TV rights deals.
A range of legal proceedings are expected to be filed in the coming days including a case with the French competition authority against the LFP for economic distortion and abuse of dominant position by the League, a similar case with the European Commission, a civil court case under Article 11.95, as well as a damages case against the League
The events that led to this dispute began with the collapsed €750 million deal with Mediapro. beIN Sports and Canal+ stepped in to save the league and its clubs by taking an extra broadcast package via a sub-license by Canal+ from beIN Sports. The sub-license, agreed with the league (which was claiming it was on the verge of bankruptcy) was for 20% of the live rights for €330 million.
However, the league then went and sold the 80% of the remaining live rights to Amazon at a knockdown price of €250 million – a remarkable €80 million less than Canal+ were paying for their 20% of the inventory.
Canal+, not surprisingly, were furious and cried foul, refusing to honour the sub-licensing deal and leaving beIN Sport with the €330 million bill for rights, hence why it tried to force its partner (with which it is aligned with in the other legal cases) to pay.
A beIN Sport spokesoerson said: “We take note of the interim ruling of the Nanterre Commercial Court, which compels us to take legal action against the League in order to force Canal+ to comply with its contract. We are now considering all legal options. After over a year of chaos following the default of Mediapro, it is regrettable that French football is still facing such uncertainty just weeks before the season re-starts.”
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