Privately-owned German media giant Kirch Gruppe has its pen poised over the TV rights contract for next year’s soccer World Cup competition.

The rights, previously in the ironclad grip of Swiss sporting rights firm ISMM/ISL, slipped into limbo after it plunged into bankruptcy [WAMN: 18-Apr-01].

A meeting in Zurich last Thursday between Sepp Blatter, president of soccer’s governing body FIFA, and a senior [unnamed] Kirch executive, agreed the deal subject to i-dotting and t-crossing. This, said Blatter confidently, speaking from Moscow over the weekend, “would be ready for signing” on his return to Switzerland.

It is believed that the agreement also commits Kirch to handling the rights to several properties less mouthwatering than the World Cup – among them the indoor World Cup, the Confederations World Cup, the women's World Cup and the Under-Seventeens and Under-20s competitions.

According to Blatter, FIFA also plans to double the frequency of the money-spinning World Club Championship from every four years to biennially, starting in 2003.

News source: Financial Times