Further to a recent decision by the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), the professional football organisations in the Netherlands may no longer jointly sell rights to the live broadcasting of football matches, as from the start of the 2003-2004 season. The football clubs operate through a joint venture Eredivisie N.V., which sells the rights to live broadcasting of all premier division matches to one broadcasting company, at present the subscription television channel Canal+.
NMa has taken a decision following notification of the collective selling of broadcasting rights via Eredivisie N.V.. The point of departure of NMa's assessment is that every club is the owner of the right to broadcast its own home matches. Under the present situation, Eredivisie N.V. sells a total package consisting of the matches of the 18 Premier Division clubs to a single interested party. The total proceeds are divided amongst the clubs according to a distribution formula determined beforehand, whereby part of the proceeds is divided equally amongst the clubs and part is allocated on a variable basis according to the clubs' ranking in the league table.
In the present situation, Canal+ only broadcasts live 44 of the 306 matches held each season. These are mainly matches of the top three clubs. The other matches are not broadcasted. Other possible interested parties are therefore excluded by this method of purchasing the right to broadcast these matches. NMa assumes that the separate commercialisation of broadcasting rights by clubs will result in a broader range of matches on offer on TV including more of teams that are not amongst the top clubs. Such clubs also have interesting matches to offer, such as matches against the top clubs, regional derbies, and matches for positions which entitle the clubs to play at the European level. They should be able to sell the rights to broadcast their home matches, for example on regional television.
The collective sale of rights to live broadcasts of football matches is not necessary, in NMa's opinion, to achieve a form of mutual solidarity between clubs. Even if a number of smaller clubs were to sell or trade broadcasting rights jointly, the football clubs could reserve part of their income for investments to maintain competition.
However, the NMa has granted permission for the collective selling via Eredivisie NV of the rights to broadcast highlights of the premier league matches with a view to providing a comprehensive overview of the matches played. It conceded that such a comprehensive overview can only be realised by the clubs jointly.
The decision of the NMa follows the same theme as the European Commission’s approval of the UEFA Champions League’s joint selling of broadcasting rights announced last year, based on a complex revised packaging of the rights, with exclusivity limited to three seasons’ duration. The European Commission’s subsequent and current investigation into the joint selling of broadcasting rights to English Premier League matches further continues the theme.The full text of the NMa’s decision is available in English at www.nma-org.nl/besluiten/2002/bma/eredivisie.pdf.