EC inspectors visit media companies in sports-rights probe

European Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the offices of several companies linked to the sports-media market yesterday (Tuesday).

The London office of media company 21st Century Fox was one of the locations visited by the investigators.

Documents and computers were reportedly seized during the raids, according to the Guardian newspaper.

“The European Commission can confirm that on April 10 its officials carried out unannounced inspections in several member states at the premises of companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting,” a spokesperson for the body said. “Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices.”

The EC officials were accompanied by their counterparts from national anti-trust authorities, according to the Reuters news agency.

The commission spokesperson added: “The fact that the commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anticompetitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The commission respects the rights of defence, in particular, the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.”

A Fox spokesperson said that the Fox Networks Group division was “cooperating fully with the EC inspection”.

Dutch pay-television broadcaster Ziggo today (Wednesday) said it was part of the probe. “We have been informed that the European Commission is inspecting several media companies in Europe, including Ziggo Sport,” the company said on Wednesday. 

“Ziggo Sport is cooperating fully with the European Commission’s inspection and is unable to comment further at this stage.”