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Premier League could sell rights on pan-European basis, Scudamore says

The English Premier League is considering folding its next cycle of UK rights, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, into a pan-European package in the wake of the European Court of Justice legal case that has brought into question the traditional territory-by-territory model, according to chief executive Richard Scudamore.

“There’s no decision yet on whether or not we will make a domestic deal,” Scudamore said. “One of the implications of the ECJ [European Court of Justice] decision is we are still working on whether we might sell the rights on a pan-European basis.”

In October, the ECJ advised the UK High Court, in the league’s case against Portsmouth publican Karen Murphy, that European Union citizens were free to acquire pay-television services from any EU member state, although they could be in breach of copyright law if they showed copyrighted elements within broadcasts without the league’s permission.

Scudamore added: “Think of Europe as one territory, think of Europe as the United States – we sell to one organisation in the US. Certainly if we decide to sell it that way it won’t be good for the local indigenous broadcast partner. In a small European country, you can’t possibly step up and buy the whole of Europe.”

Pay-television broadcasters BSkyB and ESPN, the incumbent UK live rights-holders, pay a total of £1.8 billion (€2.1 billion/$2.8 billion) for the rights in the current three-year cycle, from 2010-11 to 2012-13.

“Loyalty counts in many regards, but remember our current agreements are heavily regulated, our packages are put out into the open market and we have to have an open tender,” Scudamore said. “Fundamentally our packages have to be issued on the open market, they have to be sold to the highest compliant bidder, and have to be sold on a stand-alone basis.”

He added: “Ultimately, whatever umbilical cord there might be on an ongoing commercial basis [with a current partner], that gets severed once that invitation to tender gets issued.”

The league plans to send out tender documents for the next rights cycle in the second quarter of 2012.