The European General Court (EGC) has ruled that football fans can continue to watch major events on free-to-air TV in the U.K. and Belgium.
Even though the General Court of the European Union acknowledged that the broadcasting rights to the competitions “constitutes a major source of their incomes,” it said that the World Cup and European Championship were “single events” that could not be divided at will.
The EGC said: “The court holds that the [European] Commission did not err in finding that the United Kingdom’s categorisation of all World Cup and Euro matches… as ‘events of major importance’ for their societies are compatible with European Union law.
“Consequently, FIFA’s and UEFA’s actions are dismissed.”
A ruling in FIFA’s favor could have ended decades of tradition in the U.K., where the World Cup must be broadcast on free-to-air television.
FIFA and UEFA had argued the current set-up interfered with their ability to sell television rights at the best price.
They had said there was no reason why all games at tournaments should be shown on television, as part of a list the national sporting events that have to be made available to everyone to watch for free.
The two football bodies had argued that any games featuring England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would have still been shown on TV for free, as would have the finals and semi-finals of the tournaments. But the rest of the 64 World Cup matches and 31 European Championship matches would not have been free in the UK.
FIFA and UEFA now have two months to launch any appeal against the decision.