Premier League threatens Setanta over £20m payment

Troubled broadcaster faces loss of football rights after missing payment

Setanta Sports has just days to raise £20m or face losing the rights to its "jewel in the crown" – coverage of Premier League football next season.

The Dublin-based broadcaster was saved from administration after an American billionaire stepped in with an 11th-hour rescue plan last week, and it resumed taking subscriptions from new customers on Saturday. However, losing rights to the Premier League would be a body blow to the group's long-term prospects.

Setanta has the rights to screen 46 matches over the 2009-10 season, yet that is now in doubt after it missed a scheduled payment for £30m, paying just a third of the sum. In response, the Premier League announced yesterday that it would put Setanta's two rights packages on the block if the payment was not settled in full by the close of business on Friday.

It said: "Although the Premier League would like to provide Setanta with as much time as possible to rearrange its finances, the start of the 2009-10 season is only two months away, with the release of fixtures imminent.

"Accordingly, the Premier League has notified Setanta that, if necessary, the existing licence agreement between us will be terminated, coming into effect if Setanta does not meet certain contractual requirements of the Premier League on or before Friday."

Should the rights be put up for sale, rival BSkyB could bid on one package. ESPN, owned by Disney, is also believed to be interested.

Setanta declined to comment yesterday. One source close to the group said: "This doesn't come as a huge surprise and we fully understand this close to the new season that they have to protect themselves. However, it shouldn't cause a huge disruption to our plans."

Setanta remains in talks with the rescue investors who emerged on Friday. They are led by Len Blavatnik, a Russian-born billionaire whose Access Industries already holds a 3 per cent stake in Setanta. Mr Blavatnik is understood to have offered £20m for a 51 per cent stake in the group. Endemol, the production company responsible for Big Brother, is also thought to be interested in investing.

"The discussions with investors are continuing, and by Friday we expect the business will be in a position to meet its obligations," the Setanta source said.

Despite the tight deadline, Setanta is banking on its close ties with the new investors to secure a quick turnaround and pay off its short-term debts.

Mr Blavatnik, who is on the board of the oil venture TNK-BP, also owns Top-Up TV, a digital television service that offers Setanta to its clients. Top-Up TV's chairman, David Chance, a former executive at Sky, is also likely to be brought in to advise. "He knows the industry inside out," one media expert said.

"These guys have worked quite closely together," the Setanta source said. "They are not going into this investment blind. There is a reasonable expectation this will be done quickly."

He still cautioned: "We do need to get the refinancing over the line first."

Setanta's was hit by the loss of one Premier League package at auction earlier this year, but its future was thrown into doubt this month after it missed a routine payment to the Scottish Premier League (SPL). Two weeks on, Setanta still has not paid up.

One source close to the SPL said: "We are aware of reports of new funding, which is positive, but we will have to see how they stack up." The SPL declined to comment.

"The league has to look at this in the short term for next season but also in the longer term, and what it means. Hopefully it will become clearer over the coming days," the insider added.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam