Kirch, ITV and BBC refill Cup talks

Discussions, rather than negotiations, have been resumed

LONDON — England’s soccer team qualified for the 2002 World Cup Saturday, prompting fresh talks between event rights holders the Kirch Group and U.K. broadcasters ITV and BBC, who have yet to agree on a deal to televise the tourney.

Talks broke down in April after Kirch demanded £170 million ($249 million). A spokesman for the German media group confirmed Tuesday that discussions, rather than negotiations, had been resumed. Reports suggested that the two sides were close to reaching an agreement, but Kirch denied there were more meetings planned for this week.

Last month, Kirch complained to the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading that the rival broadcasters were acting as a cartel after they offered $80 million for the rights. The BBC and commercial web ITV have traditionally acquired the rights jointly.

Meanwhile, soccer world governing body FIFA is under pressure to intervene in talks with sponsors, including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, who are worried because broadcast deals have yet to be struck in other territories, including Italy and France. A FIFA spokesman said the org was not planning to act at this point.

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