A consortium of Dutch telecom and cable operators has called on the country's market watchdog to intervene in the ongoing exclusive negotiation between the Eredivisie, the top professional football league in the Netherlands, and Disney. The consortium, which includes Delta Fiber, KPN, Odido and VodafoneZiggo, alleges that the exclusive talks breach the country's cartel rules.
The telecom group contends that Eredivisie football clubs can only market their broadcast rights jointly if there is a fair and transparent bidding process. They argue that this is not the case in the current negotiation between Eredivisie and Disney/ESPN. The consortium has therefore requested the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to classify the award of rights to Disney/ESPN as an infringement.
While the consortium awaits the ACM's decision, they are operating under the assumption that the Eredivisie clubs have not yet finalized the deal with Disney/ESPN. This assumption was communicated to the ECV and the Eredivisie clubs in a letter.
The consortium emphasized that it is the ACM's responsibility to decide whether to intervene. They pointed out that all major leagues in the European Union allocate football broadcasting rights through a bidding process.
The consortium also referred to a 2004 ACM statement that stipulates the sale of football rights must follow a "transparent and non-discriminatory bidding and award procedure." The statement further asserts that "the method by which various bids are assessed must be objective, transparent, and verifiable."
Consortium's offer rejected
Despite the ongoing dispute, the consortium has made an offer of €180 million net for the rights. However, they claim that the ECV has refused to engage with them.
A spokesperson for the consortium said:
“We can only guess what the underlying reason is for refusing this. We therefore feel compelled to take the step towards the ACM. We would prefer to sit around the table with ECV and the clubs, but so far we have not been offered a single seat. We assume that the clubs will not make any final decisions regarding the private award to Disney, pending the enforcement request to the ACM.”
The outcome of this dispute could have significant implications for sports fans. If the consortium's challenge is successful, it could lead to a more competitive and transparent process for securing Eredivisie football rights. This could potentially result in more diverse and accessible broadcast options for fans.
The dispute over Eredivisie football rights highlights the importance of transparency and fairness in the allocation of sports broadcasting rights. It remains to be seen how the ACM will respond to the consortium's request for intervention.
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