The entire World Cup and Euro finals can stay on Britain’s list of protected free TV events after a challenge from Fifa and Uefa failed.
The international football authorities will not be able to sell the multi-billion-Pound TV rights to the tournaments to pay-TV operators like BT and Sky.
The European Court of Justice said: “All the matches in the final stages of those two tournaments actually attracted sufficient attention from the public to form part of an event of major importance.
“Those tournaments, in their entirety, have always been very popular among the general public and not only viewers who generally follow football matches on television.”
Fifa and Uefa had attempted to tackle the protected sporting events lists enforced by the UK and Belgium, which keep sport’s ‘crown jewels’ on free channels like the BBC and ITV.
They wanted to put matches featuring non-UK teams outside the opening games, final and semi-final on the auction block for British broadcasters.
The European Court of Justice agreed with the British and Belgian governments’ arguments that it was up to European member states to judge which events are important enough to keep for free TV.
This means that in the UK, all 64 World Cup finals matches and 31 European Championship games will be guaranteed for free TV unless the government decides otherwise.
Italy is one of several European countries where some or all of the the major football tournaments are shown on pay-TV, with Sky Italia winning large audiences during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Fifa and Uefa had banked on a technicality to overturn a ruling in favour of protected lists by the European General Court in 2011, but the European Court of Justice said that although there were errors in the decision, they did not have any impact.
The case began five years ago when the two football authorities began proceedings just before the start of Euro 2008.
Victory would have boosted the billions of dollars in revenue expected from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and the hundreds of millions for Euro 2020, although the rights to Euro 2016 and the Brazil 2014 World Cup have already been sold to the BBC and ITV.