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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 16:25 GMT
Premiership settles TV row
A cameraman films at Southampton's St Mary's stadium
BSkyB will no longer have exclusive rights to live Premiership games
The European Commission has reached a deal with the Premier League and BSkyB allowing up to eight top live games a year to be shown by rival broadcasters.

The 1bn TV deal had been challenged by European commissioner Mario Monti, who said it gave Sky a monopoly and stopped armchair fans watching live games.

But Premier League chairmen agreed a solution on Tuesday and a compromise was agreed for next season.

Sky is still expected to honour its deal despite losing exclusive rights.

The broadcaster has so far, however, refused to comment.

Under the new arrangement:

  • Up to eight Premier League games per season will be shown by a broadcaster other than BSkyB.

  • After the 2006-2007 season, the Premier League will not sell the entire Premier League package to a single broadcaster.

    European Commission spokeswoman Emilio Torres told BBC Radio Five Live that whoever won the rights to the eight games would be able to pick fixtures featuring the top sides.

    "These will be top-end Premiership games," she said.

    "I cannot go into the details for the time being but we are talking about high-quality matches that terrestrial customers would want to watch."

    This ensures the interests of both fans and leagues are balanced
    EC commissioner Mario Monti

    Failure to back down in their row with Monti could have forced top-flight clubs to negotiate their own TV deals.

    That would have resulted in a massive loss of revenue for all but the biggest clubs, and might have left some in danger of going into administration.

    The Premier League strongly disagreed with Monti, who claimed the bidding process for the new three-year contract with BSkyB was not competitive enough.

    Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore had held 39 meetings with European Commission officials this year in an attempt to reach a solution.

    But Monti announced on Tuesday: "For the first time in the history of the Premier League free-to-air television will have a realistic opportunity to show live Premier League matches."

    Monti added that the deal "ensures the interests of both fans and leagues are balanced", and that the final terms would depend on the results of a public consultation.

    The top-flight chairmen, who had the backing of European governing body Uefa, had not been expected to make any concessions regarding live rights.

    Sky paid heavily for exclusivity and it was feared it would seek to dramatically reduce the value of its contract, which runs from the start of next season.

    The Premier League said in a statement: "This announcement leaves in place the new deals already negotiated for the next three years and recognises the changes the FA Premier League have made to their broadcasting arrangements over the course of nine months of negotiations.

    "Crucially this agreement delivers our clubs financial stability and certainty, enabling them to plan for the future.

    "The agreement protects the principle of competitive joint selling which underpins the integrity of the competition and, significantly for fans, maintains the quality of the game both now and in the future.

    "The terms of the settlement also offer the FA Premier League the flexibility to structure its rights in line with market conditions in three years time."

    European commissioner Mario Monti
    "The Premier League has agreed extensive changes to its media rights"

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