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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Sky set to lose football monopoly
Manchester City v West Ham
BSkyB currently has all the TV rights to Premiership football matches
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has said talks with the European Commission over football TV rights have been "fruitful".

The Commission has threatened legal action unless the league changes the way rights are sold for 2007 to 2010.

The EU wants to prevent any company winning exclusive rights, such as BSkyB has with the present Premiership deal.

European officials said both sides had agreed that at least two broadcasters had to share rights to live matches.

Mr Scudamore had outlined a plan to sell five packages of 28 games each, with no firm allowed more than four packages.

'Meaningful share'

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who had threatened to curtail talks if the league did not come up with new concessions, said the discussions produced "constructive proposals" which "move us closer to an amicable result".

She also promised to give a decision on how the league's proposals were received by Friday, and whether the threat of legal action has been averted.

2001 - European Commission probe into sale of Premier League media rights
2002 - Commission charges league with breaking competition law
August 2003 - Sky wins four tiered live rights packages
August 2003 - Commission unhappy and says League has 'serious questions' to answer
2005 - Commission expresses its concerns about distribution of rights in 2007

After Tuesday's talks her team said in a statement that packages must be sold in a way "that ensures that at least two broadcasters each obtain a viable and meaningful share of the live match broadcast rights".

It said that this was "because the Commission wants viewers and football fans to enjoy more choice and better value".

The league said it had been given "a fair hearing" by Kroes, despite the frosty relationship between the two parties since Mr Scudamore's first proposals were rejected in the summer.

"It was fruitful, it was a civilised, decent discussion. They are going to get back to us in a couple of days," Mr Scudamore said after the talks in Brussels.

Widespread interest

A five-package set up would still allow one firm, such as Sky, to potentially control 80% of the live games.

Other broadcasters will also be watching developments closely, including Setanta, NTL-Telewest, Channel 5, the BBC and ITV. Private equity firms are also keeping an eye on how the talks are going.

The league had resisted suggestions that no one broadcaster should be allowed to own more than 50% of games - saying this would discourage potential bidders.

In August 2003, the Premier League awarded all four of its rights packages to Sky in a deal worth 1.024bn.

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