Football TV rights appeal rejected
The European Union's highest court has dismissed an appeal from Fifa and Uefa and sided with member states that insist on keeping the World Cup and European football championships on free TV.
The Court of Justice rejected the appeals "in their entirety" in a move which is likely to be welcomed by fans across the continent who follow the tournaments.
It means the world and European federations now face a restricted pool of broadcasters when they come to sell the rights to prime time matches.
The World Cup and European championships are each held every four years and are key income providers for the federations.
EU member states have the right to select a series of top sports events to be shown on free TV.
"This decision not only distorts competition in a free market, but also reduces the possibility to generate income that can then be distributed to the amateur game," Uefa said in a statement.
Fifa objected to the broad interpretation of the rules to include all 64 matches of the World Cup. It said in a reaction that it already makes "at least 22 matches available on that basis" including all home team matches, the opening match, semi-finals and the final.
"Crucially," the world federation said, "such market distortion could also impact on Fifa's ability to generate funds from the Fifa World Cup."
The court said that the initial 2011 ruling of the EU's General Court already stated that "all the matches in the final stages of those two tournaments actually attracted sufficient attention from the public to form part of an event of major importance".
"Those tournaments, in their entirety, have always been very popular among the general public and not only viewers who generally follow football matches on television," the court statement said.