A radical shake-up of the way English football is shown on television and sold to broadcasters has moved a step closer after regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into the Premier League.
The probe could result in an increase in the number of top-flight matches broadcast live and a reduction in the cost of subscribing to pay-TV services such as Sky and BT.
Ofcom’s investigation follows a complaint by Virgin Media, which carries Sky and BT, that the current system is in breach of competition law.
Only 41 per cent of Premier League games are shown live, compared with all fixtures in Spain, Germany and Italy. Virgin argues that this results in a bidding war among UK broadcasters, who paid £3bn at the last auction, and that consumers foot the bill.
The probe poses a threat to Premier League plans to begin auctioning its next three-year broadcast packages, for 2016-19, early next year. But with an investigation able to run into years, top-flight chiefs are likely to press on regardless.
Competition lawyer Daniel Geey, a senior associate at Fieldfisher, told City A.M.: “For Ofcom to find competition law infringements, they will have to consider whether there is an agreement or decision which restricts or distorts competition. That may be a high threshold to meet.”