A French court has given French pay TV operator Canal+ a green light to decline to pay its onetime partner BeIN Sports for the Ligue 1 football matches it had previously agreed to sub-license from the Qatar-based broadcaster.
The Nanterre commercial court hearing BeIN’s case against Canal+ over non-payment of the money due for the rights reportedly ruled that the Vivendi-owned operator was justified in declining to make a down-payment of €500,000 for the rights because BeIN Sports had not taken action against the French professional football league (LFP), which originally licensed the rights to it.
Canal+ may however be forced to make the payment if BeIN Sports takes action to recover the money from the LFP, as requested by its partner. The court’s ruling is based on a clause in Canal+’s agreement with BeIN Sports that stipulates the latter must take legal action if Canal+ requests that it does so.
BeIN Sports has until now declined to take action by itself, leading its partner to launch two failed attempts to have the contract overturned, one in the commercial court and the other before the competition watchdog, the Autorité de la Concurrence.
BeIN Sports position is complicated by the fact that its chief Nasser Al-Khelaïfi is also a member of the administrative board of the LFP and president of leading football club Paris Saint-Germain.
BeIN Sports has said it is studying the ruling and regretted that the world of French top-tier football would continue to face huge uncertainty only two weeks before the start of the next season.
BeIN filed its suit with the Nanterre commercial court the week before last, seeking payment of the €332 million it agreed to pay the league for two matches per weekend match-day and then sub-licensed to Canal+.
Canal+ unilaterally withdrew from its agreement with BeIN Sports after the LFP awarded the other 80% of Ligue 1 rights to Amazon for a reported €259 million, following previous rights-holder Mediapro’s disastrous withdrawal from the French market.
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