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€70 million per season Top 14 TV rights deal facing legal threat

BeIN Sport are reportedly unhappy with the process that led to Canal+ agreeing a new five-year deal with the LNR.

Castres were Top 14 champions in 2013.
Castres were Top 14 champions in 2013.
Image: Jacques Brinon

THE BATTLE FOR the Top 14 TV rights may not be over, despite Canal+ having signed a five-year deal with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby [LNR] in January.

The Qatari-owned BeIN Sport have contacted the Autorité de la concurrence [France's national competition regulator] with their legal concerns over the manner in which rival channel Canal+ were awarded the rights, according to financial newspaper Les Echoes.

Last December, the LNR announced that they would put the Top 14 rights out to tender, apparently signalling the end of their 20 year relationship with Canal+. That move had came in the wake of Canal+ making an offer of €65 million per season to hang onto their exclusive deal.

The LNR turned down that offer, with the intention of drawing BeIN Sport into a bidding war as figures in the region of €100 million were mentioned by the influential characters such as Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.

However, that situation failed to materialise as the LNR last month interrupted their own invitation to tender and accepted Canal+’s improved offer of €335 million over the course of the next five season. BeIN Sport feel that the process did not allow “impartial and fair competition” to take place and have now called upon the Autorité de la concurrence to investigate.

C’est compliqué

The matter is complicated by the fact that Canal+ and BeIN Sport are also direct rivals for the rights to French football’s Ligue 1.

In fact, the former channel has lodged their own complaint with the Autorité de la concurrence over that issue, ahead of an anticipated call for offers for the rights to France’s top-tier league for the years 2016 to 2020.

Canal+ are scheduled to screen Ligue 1 until June 2016, and president Bertrand Meheut told Le Figaro that the Ligue de Football Professionnel’s timing in opening up the bidding process is “unacceptable.”

Meheut says Canal+ want to enjoy their deal until 2016 “peacefully” and claims not to understand the haste in sealing any future contracts.

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Murray Kinsella

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