FIFA/UEFA v Commission

Feb 11

Directive 89/552 allows Member States to designate events of major importance for society to be broadcast on free TV stations. Member States have to notify the Commission of their list of designated events. The Commission has to verify that those measures are compatible with Community Law. The United Kingdom had designated the entire FIFA World Cup and the entire final stage of the UEFA European Football Championship as events of major importance, and the Commission had verified the United Kingdom’s list.

FIFA and UEFA unsuccessfully challenged the Commission’s decision arguing, amongst other things, that only certain matches should have been listed. The European General Court rejected arguments that the Commission had failed to give sufficient reasons for its decision and that the Commission had erred in finding that the UK’s procedure for including the World Cup in the list of designated events was clear and transparent. The Court held that the fact that the United Kingdom had followed a different approach in respect of other events, such as the Cricket World Cup, or that other Member States included mainly "prime" or "gala" matches in their lists didn’t affect the finding that the United Kingdom could legitimately regard the entire World Cup or final stage of the European Championship as an event of major importance for society.  It was said that different Member States could take a different approach about the inclusion of a certain event in their list. A similar unsuccessful challenge was made to the Commission’s verification of the Belgian listing.

Tom de la Mare and Brian Kennelly (assisted by Emily Neill during pupillage) acted successfully for the UK.

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Thomas de la Mare QC, Brian Kennelly, Emily Neill

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