Egyptian regulator takes action against Fifa over World Cup rights

The Egyptian Competition Authority has launched action against Fifa, world football’s governing body, claiming the country’s terrestrial broadcasters are being denied coverage of the 2018 World Cup.

Egypt has qualified for this year’s tournament in Russia, which kicks off on Thursday, for the first time in 28 years. However, at present, pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports will be the only legal means of viewing the tournament in the country.

Earlier this year, Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Khalid Abdel-Aziz, said the National Media Authority was hoping to agree a deal that will allow domestic broadcasters to televise at least 24 matches from the World Cup.

Any such agreement would have to be struck with beIN Media Group, which holds exclusive media rights to the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups across the Middle East and North Africa. With an agreement yet to be agreed, and Egypt due to play its first match against Uruguay on Friday, the ECA has now moved to take action against Fifa.

In a statement reported by the Egypt Today website, the ECA said: “The ECA has ordered interim measures against Fifa based on prima facie finding of infringements to articles 7 and 8 of the Egyptian competition law as it was revealed that those infringements would cause serious and irreparable damage to the freedom of competition and consumers, insofar they will prevent consumers from receiving the right to watch the 2018 World Cup Russia under competitive and fair conditions. 

“Fifa must make available immediately to the Egyptian National Media Authority the rights to live broadcast through terrestrial channels 22 selected matches of the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia.”

Specifically, the ECA is requesting, on reasonable financial terms, free-to-air access to Egypt’s matches, the opening game, three matches from the Round of 16, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final. 

It added: “On May 14, 2018, the ECA received a complaint alleging that Fifa, the sole entity that owns the right to award licenses for TV broadcasting of the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia, infringed articles 7 and 8 of the Egyptian competition law. 

“After conducting a preliminary inspection, it has been established, based on the available evidence, that Fifa extended its agreement with beIN Sports and awarded it on an exclusive basis all media rights pertaining to the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia covering cable, satellite, terrestrial, mobile and broadband transmission across 23 territories and countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt. 

“However, it was also revealed that these rights were awarded in absence of fair, or transparent or non-discriminatory tendering procedures. It has also been noted that granting the full range of rights as a single bundled package exclusively to one single entity for such an extended period of time is contrary to Fifa’s established practice in other countries and regions worldwide. 

“Moreover, the ECA noted that Fifa contravened its own TV licensing policy, by virtue of which 22 matches must be made available on free-to-air terrestrial channels, that include all home team matches, the opening match, semi-finals and the final. 

“The ECA also noted that the practices of Fifa in France, for example, were different from those in the Middle East and North Africa including Egypt. In France, Fifa (after following an open tender) reached a deal with TF1 (the French terrestrial broadcaster) in 2016 that covers the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups, with arrangements to show 28 of the biggest matches from those tournaments on a free-to air basis. 

“This deal did not obstruct Fifa from reaching a separate deal with beIN Sports in the same country that awarded the latter pay-tv rights of the two tournaments.”