Italian court overturns Mediaset fine in Serie A rights case

The regional administrative court (TAR) of Lazio has scrapped a fine of €51.4m ($55.1m) imposed on media company Mediaset for alleged violations of competition laws in the 2014 sale of rights to Serie A, the top division of Italian football.

In a statement, Mediaset said the TAR accepted “without reservation” its claims in the case, adding that accusations of breaches of competition regulations were “completely devoid” of evidence.

The verdict comes after the four parties involved in the investigation by Italy’s antitrust authority, l’Autorità Garante del Mercato e della Concorrenza, into the sale of Serie A rights, which led to €66m in fines being handed down in April, filed appeals against the ruling in June.

The appeals from Mediaset, Sky Italia, Lega Serie A and Infront Sports & Media were entered at the TAR of Lazio. The regulator issued its sanctions having already notified Lega Serie A, the Infront agency, Mediaset and pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia that their behaviour during the auction process for Serie A media rights constituted a breach of European competition law.

The December 2015 findings came after a seven-month investigation into the June 2014 sales of the rights for the period 2015-16 to 2017-18. The authority opened the investigation after the Lega ignored the outcome of its own auction, splitting the main live packages between pay-television broadcasters Mediaset and Sky, despite Sky having outbid Mediaset for both.

Mediaset was issued with the largest fine. Sky was ordered to pay €4m, the Lega was fined €1.9m and Infront, its media rights adviser, was handed a fine of €9m.