Live German league matches are currently shown here on pay-per-view television channel Premiere, but the Federal Cartel Office insist a highlights package must also be shown on free television channels before 8pm on Saturdays. Premiere wants games on public television to be screened no earlier than 10 pm, so as not to compete with their live broadcasts.
But the Federal Cartel Office ruled on Thursday the planned television package for the 2009/10 Bundesliga season did not meet anti-monopoly standards and would be banned unless changed by the German Football League (DFL).
Unless they agree to the strict criteria, the DFL could face having live football taken off air which would cost them in lost television revenue. The current deal with Premiere is to screen six seasons of live football, between 2009 and 2015, for €3 billion euros. And DFL members fear substantial financial losses as they are now forced to re-negotiate the television deal.
Last week, the DFL made some alternations to the current package, but it was deemed too little, too late by the Federal authorities.
"This is a huge bombshell for us, the hurdles for German football are even higher now and will make it more difficult for our clubs to compete in Europe," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a DFL board member and Bayern Munich chairman, told German agency SID. "The stance taken by the Cartel Office is incomprehensible and could set professional football in Germany years back."
And DFL boss Reinhard Rauball was just as angry. "No other league in Europe is limited in such a way through it's marketing opportunities," he said.
Manfred Müller, from Werder Bremen and who is also on the DFL board, said the regulations put the DFL in an "emergency" situation. The DFL board members meet in Frankfurt on Thursday having been notified of the decision on Wednesday.
But not all of the Bundesliga clubs were up in arms over the ruling.
Heribert Bruchhagen, the chairman of Eintracht Frankfurt and a DFL board member, was far less dramatic in his reaction. "Where is the problem? If we have less income, we have less to spend," he told daily newspaper Die Welt.
And for Bernhard Heitzer, president of the Federal Cartel Office, the harm done to the finances of Bundesliga clubs, eager to attract the world's best players to help them compete in European competition, was irrelevant.
"That is not a justification for a monopoly of revenue at the expense of the consumer," he insisted.