David Prosser: Sky warns football Ofcom is an own goal


Outlook Take it as a threat or just a statement of fact, but Jeremy Darroch wants the football world to be in no doubt that the sport will share the pain should Ofcom follow through on its threat to force Sky, his company, to sell its football rights to rival broadcasters at regulated – ie, lower – prices.

"If our ability to make a return on our investment in football is reduced by having to sell our channels at artificially depressed prices, then it becomes less attractive for us to make that investment in the first place," Mr Darroch told an audience of "leaders in football" yesterday. "The consequences of regulatory intervention would be a new economic reality to which all of us would have to adjust."

Sky remains spitting mad that Ofcom has taken the side of its enemies in the argument about the extent to which the wholesaling of football rights should be policed – particularly since those enemies are led by BT, which is hardly a small business desperately trying to stay afloat in a world of corporate sharks.

Mr Darroch should not be too concerned. Sky has the option to tie up the dispute in legal red tape for a couple of years to come. Ofcom, on the other hand, does not have time on its side. The Conservatives have already promised to abolish the regulator should they win the general election next year.

Still, the broadcaster is clearly taking no chances. Football has grown rich on the back of Sky's investments over the last 15 to 20 years. Mr Darroch wants club chairmen to know that their golden goose's eggs are likely to be a little less rich if Ofcom is allowed to get its way on this matter. Somehow, you don't fancy the regulator's chances in this grudge match.

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