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Blighty soccer eyeing exclu BSkyB deal

Clubs have split the rights into three packages

BRUSSELS — England’s soccer clubs are poised to accept a £1 billion ($1.6 billion) winner-takes-all bid from Rupert Murdoch’s satcaster BSkyB for rights to live coverage of games, putting them on a collision course with European Union regulators.

Sky is trying to get exclusive access to top games in the TV soccer rights negotiations, even though clubs have split the rights into three packages to ensure that live games will not be sewn up by a single broadcaster.

“If all the matches were to go to a single broadcaster, then this is clearly something we would not like and we might have to take another look at the situation — go into extra time, as they say in soccer,” said a spokesman for EU executive arm, the Commission.

Only player in town

Sky is the only serious player in town and is keen to secure its status as the U.K’s main source of soccer on TV. The paybox is offering top dollar for the three packages, but only if it gets them exclusively.

If it does not get them, Sky is threatening to cut the amount it will pay for any individual package.

If the clubs — acting together as the Premier League, a collective bargaining approach that has already attracted criticism from EU regulators — accept the bid, Brussels will be forced to act.

“The rights packages should be configured in such a way that they go to several broadcasters,” the spokesman said. “This is the way European soccer’s governing body UEFA sells the rights to Champions League matches. If it cannot happen in the U.K., then we may need to re-examine the configuration of the packages.”

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