TUC Conference: Sky bid `threat to small clubs'

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH'S bid to take over Manchester United would create a "TV cuckoo in football's nest", the leader of Britain's footballers' union told delegates.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said that BSkyB's pounds 623m offer would lead to smaller clubs being killed off and should be blocked by the Government.

Backing a conference motion on the staging of the 2006 World Cup in England, Mr Taylor claimed that the deal would cause just as much damage to football as the hooliganism of the 1980s unless ministers intervened.

He said that it was clear that Mr Murdoch's move would lead to a preponderance of big clubs signing up their own pay-TV deals and that "anarchy" would result.

"The big clubs stand to gain even more dominance through pay-TV," he said. "After all, that is the reason behind Murdoch's desire to own Manchester United. He wants to force through his own interests by having influence on both sides of any negotiations - a TV cuckoo in football's nest."

Mr Taylor called for new anti-trust laws to protect the integrity of football and sport in general. "Football is the people's game, but the umbilical cord between fans and clubs is being brutally severed," he said.

Earlier, John Monks, general secretary of the TUC and an avid Manchester United supporter, said he found the Murdoch bid "very painful".