European Parliament votes on sports funding

Broadcasters welcome collective selling

BRUSSELS -- European broadcasters breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after the European Parliament voted for broadcast money from sports media rights to be spread equally between big and small clubs.

The vote comes after concerns about the widening gulf between rich and poor clubs in sporting leagues, and fears that soccer clubs such as Manchester United and Real Madrid could scoop all the broadcast money for themselves.

But broadcasters welcomed the Parliament vote, saying collective selling would simplify the process for them.

"Broadcasters much prefer collective," said Maxim Hauk, legal counsel of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe.

The MEPs said collective selling of rights can be important for the redistribution of income, "and can thus be a tool for achieving greater solidarity within sports." They called for the sports groups to reinvest a percentage of the revenue from TV rights to fund the volunteer and nonprofit sectors.

They also rejected efforts by sports organizations to restrict media coverage by effectively copyrighting their events. They said governments must assure wide TV access to major sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup, which should be on free-to-air television.