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Wednesday June 20th, 2018

Egyptian Competition Authority, COMESA Pressure FIFA and beIN for Free-to-Air Matches

On 11 June 2018, the Egyptian Competition Authority (“ECA”) issued decision No. 1 of 2018 ruling that FIFA is in violation of Articles 7 and 8 of Competition Law No. 3 of 2005 by only granting one licensor, beIN Sports, the right to broadcast the World Cup in Egypt. Exercising its board’s rights to order injunctive relief, the ECA ordered FIFA to permit the broadcast of 22 matches on Egyptian terrestrial channels. ECA also sought the intervention of COMESA, who issued a statement in support of Egypt’s claim and opened an investigation into FIFA. The ECA and COMESA found that FIFA was in violation of its own policy of permitting at least 22 free-to-air matches, and that failure to award broadcast rights by tender represented grave harm to Egyptian consumers and market competition.

In what seems as a response to these claims and possible pressure by FIFA, beIN Media Group announced on Thursday 14 June 2018 that it would air 22 matches to MENA fans on its free channels accessible on NileSat, though some sources have reported that this was the result of a failure to negotiate broadcast rights in Saudi Arabia. The 22 matches are the first match of the competition, all group games involving Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, selected quarter and semi-final matches, and the World Cup final. This decision by beIN relieved FIFA of engaging with the competition law issues at hand, and the demands for terrestrial broadcast rights. It also avoided a scenario where Egypt (or other MENA countries) are found to be in violation of FIFA broadcasting rules, and the incursion of fines by these countries. Meanwhile COMESA’s investigation may proceed. Extra-territorial application of domestic competition law is increasingly common. Some governments and many competition authorities are now signatories to international co-operation agreements in competition enforcement (bilateral, multilateral or regional) to address the practical challenges of application.

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