IMG, MP & Silva and B4 fined €67m for restricting Italian soccer rights competition
By Callum Murray
IMG, the international sports and entertainment company, and fellow agencies B4 Capital and the now-defunct MP & Silva have been fined a combined total of €67 million ($75 million) for competition abuses in the distribution of international rights to Italian soccer matches.
By far the majority of the fine - about €64 million - was imposed on MP & Silva, the agency which held the Serie A international rights over the period. B4 was fined €3.1 million and IMG just €343,645, reflecting in part, it is understood, its willingness to co-operate with the investigation.
IMG told Sportcal today: “IMG has received a decision from the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) following the ICA’s investigation begun in July 2017 into certain tenders issued by the Italian Football League. As reflected in the decision, IMG cooperated fully and extensively with the ICA throughout the course of its investigation, and is pleased that this matter is now concluded.”
The AGCM now seems set to join a lengthy list of creditors of MP & Silva, which was would up after a ruling by the UK High Court's Bankruptcy Court last October.
The AGCM said that “the evidence indicates that the parties did not independently formulate their bids, but instead conducted them aimed at reciprocally influencing the procedures for participating in tenders…” in order to restrict the purchase price of international rights.
It added that the three agencies colluded both before and after the tender processes, leading to a decrease in the value of the international rights to the detriment of the rights owner and the league’s clubs.
IMG and MP & Silva have both been involved in the distribution of rights to Serie A, with IMG now selling the international rights to Serie A from 2018-19 onwards in a deal worth €366.5 million ($447 million) per season, having replaced MP & Silva, its erstwhile rival.
Meanwhile, B4 Capital has been a regular bidder in the Italian top flight's international rights sales processes.
MP & Silva won the Serie A international rights in previous auctions largely perceived as lacking in serious competition, and its actions, along with those of fellow bidders B4 and IMG, were placed under the microscope.
The AGCM said previously that “it is suspected that the intermediaries have, since 2009, put in place behaviour that would alter the outcome of the proceedings initiated by Lega Serie A for the allocation of TV rights to view football competitions in territories other than Italy.”
B4's main rights distribution contract is its deal to sells rights to the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa cup competitions, in a contract worth €26 million per season.
Separately, the London offices of IMG, MP & Silva and B4 Capital were all reported to have been targeted by the European Commission in early 2018, as part of raids on companies involved in the broadcasting of sports and distribution of rights.
Other targets included the London offices of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, and Ziggo, the Dutch telecoms and cable operator that is owned jointly by US media giant Liberty Global and mobile phone operator Vodafone.
The commission said in a statement that it had "concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).”
At the time, IMG said that it was “co-operating with the EC…” MP & Silva and B4 Capital both declined to comment.Sportcal