After some uncertainty and discussion on the subject, it is finally settled who is the legal owner of the television rights to the men's professional football leagues - I League (Liga NOS) and II League (Liga Portugal Sabseg) as well as the rules regarding its commercialization.
The legislative initiative of the Portuguese Government, which culminated in the approval of Decree-Law no. 22-B/2021, of 22 March 2021, was based on a recommendation of the Competition Authority, motivated by the need to promote effective competition in the markets of commercialization, exploitation and distribution of those rights that, in Portugal, have a highly relevant social and economic role. In addition to the economic-social and competition issues raised, the reflection group gathered by the Government - which naturally included the Portuguese Football Federation and the Professional Football League - also highlighted the need to promote a more equitable distribution of the income arising from the commercialization of television rights, bringing the Portuguese reality closer to the generality of the remaining European markets.
From Decree-Law No. 22-B/2021, of 22 March, it follows, in summary, that:
- The broadcasting rights cover the sports events related to the professional football leagues for men, from the minute before the beginning of each match until the minute after its conclusion, live and deferred, in full or summarized;
- The exploitation of these rights is regulated on both the national and international markets;
- The ownership of the rights belongs to the sports clubs or companies participating in the competitions, which may freely market them - being obliged to communicate the signing of such contracts to the competition organizer within 10 days - but the contracts signed will not be effective beyond the 2027/2028 sports season;
- Broadcasting rights for sport seasons beyond 2027/2028 will be marketed on a centralized basis;
- The model according to which such commercialization will occur, will be defined through a proposal from the Portuguese Football Federation and the Portuguese Professional Football League, subject to the approval of the Competition Authority;
- The proposal must be submitted by the end of the 2025/2026 sports season, and may be anticipated by agreement of the competition organizers, participating sports clubs and societies, subject to approval by the Competition Authority;
- If the proposal is not presented - or if the proposals are rejected by the Competition Authority - it will be the Government's responsibility, by decree-law, to approve the model, after consultation with that entity.
The foundations have thus been laid for the implementation, in Portugal, of a centralized system of commercialization, exploitation and distribution of broadcasting rights of professional football competitions, bringing Portugal closer to the systems in force in most of the major European championships - Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1.
Now, the curiosity will remain to know which will be the model proposed and presented by the Portuguese Football Federation and the Portuguese League of Professional Football to the sieve of the Competition Authority. It will certainly be interesting to follow the evolution of this question in a market as sui generis as the Portuguese one, in which three clubs have an overwhelming market share. To understand how the so-called "big three" will react to the negotiations with a view to the concretization of the model - it is expected that they will seek that such market share play an important role in the definition of the distributive model - will certainly be interesting. The same may be said of the approach of the Competition Authority to situations of abuse of a dominant position or other competitive infringements.
It is thus clear that this whole process will raise several issues not only at the level of Contract Law, but mainly at the level of Sports and Competition Law.
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