Al Jazeera-owned sports networks BeIN Sports has secured the suspension of rival Canal+’s exclusive five-year deal with France’s national rugby league (LNR) for coverage of first division or ‘Top 14’ matches over the next five seasons from the country’s competition regulator.
The Competition Authority’s ruling will come into effect after the 2014-15 season so as not to cause problems for this year’s Top 14 championship. However, the authority has ruled the rights for the remaining four years of the deal must be re-opened to a fresh competitive tender under transparent and non-discriiminatory conditions.
Canal+ secured exclusive rights to Top 14 matches for the next five years in January after a dispute between it and the LNR over the latter’s decision to open up the rights to the 2014-18 seasons to a new competition in order to secure a better return than that provided under the pair’s existing contract.
Canal+ responded at the time by filing several legal actions, including one before the Paris Tribunal de Grand Instance, to have the competition suspended. The LNR withdrew its appeal for offers ahead of any legal decision and awarded the rights once again to the pay TV operator under undisclosed terms. BeIN Sport filed a complaint in March about the conditions under which the rights had been awarded.
The Competition Authority has now ruled that the Top 14 rights fall under the category of ‘premium rights’ and, as such, their award must be subject to a transparent and non-discriminatory competitive process.
Canal+ expressed its “profound disagreement” with the Competitoin Authority’s decision and said it would take the case to the Paris Court of Appeal.