Free TV b'casts or else, sez World Cup exec

BERLIN — The secretary general of the world soccer federation FIFA is threatening to cancel a major sports rights deal with Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch. If Kirch does not agree to broadcast most of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup soccer tournament games on free TV, the federation may sell the rights to another bidder, FIFA’s Joseph Blatter said in an interview that appeared in the weekend edition of Munich daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Blatter said that FIFA’s agreement with Kirch is preliminary, and that the final contracts have yet to be signed. If Kirch does not guarantee “broad coverage” of the tournaments on free-TV in all countries, FIFA could sell the rights to another organization. FIFA will reach a final decision on the issue on Dec. 3 in Marseilles.

Together with Swiss marketer ISL, Kirch announced he would purchase the world rights (except for the U.S.) to the two World Cup tournaments for an estimated DM3.4 billion ($1.9 billion) in July 1996.

Kirch officials have said the games would go to both free and pay TV.

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