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EU to probe soccer rights

BSkyB's $1.1 billion deal may be unraveled

LONDON — The European Union has launched a probe into how English Premier League soccer is sold to broadcasters, an investigation that could potentially unravel satcaster BSkyB’s $1.1 billion deal with the league and impact soccer rights across Europe.

The probe follows a legal ruling in July allowing the Premier League’s contract with BSkyB — as well as its $117 million highlights deal with the BBC — to stand.

The U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading argued that the arrangement, which runs until the 2001-02 season, was anti-competitive and that clubs should be allowed to negotiate their rights individually. Most observers considered the matter closed after the ruling.

But the EU has reopened the inquiry and has written to the league’s 20 teams asking for additional information.

A Premier League spokesperson said that a new round of discussions with the EU were about to begin and that the league will “see if we can meet their concerns.”