Endsleigh League prepares for on-screen battle

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The Independent Online

The Endsleigh League's future partnership with television could become clearer today when their representatives meet the Association at Lancaster Gate. Then again, by tonight, the issue might have blurred completely.

At stake today is the pounds 250m deal negotiated by the FA's commercial director, Trevor Phillips, a five-year package with Sky involving the FA Cup, Endsleigh League, Coca-Cola Cup and England internationals. In the background, however, is the alternative offer of a partnership between Premiership and League clubs.

Sky, who would sell highlights to ITV and the BBC, have asked for an answer by Thursday, which is unlikely to arrive as the League's board only considered the Premiership deal at a four-hour meeting yesterday. Unless they rejected it out of hand, the board will have to go back to the clubs before any deal can be struck.

"We have had a meeting and the position about our television contract was on the agenda," Gordon McKeag, the president of the League, said. "But it would be premature to make any comments about any of the matters that we have discussed."

It is understood Premiership chairmen gave the go-ahead for a joint deal with the 72 Endsleigh clubs last week, although the price could be reducing the current three-up, three-down promotion-relegation system by one.

Under the FA's plan, the Endsleigh League, whose pounds 10m-a-year contract with ITV expires at the end of the season, would receive pounds 17m for the transitional 1996/97 season then pounds 25m per year for the next four seasons. The chances are the Premier League offer of a television alliance will top that.

Middlesbrough's new pounds 4.75m Brazilian signing, Juninho, has been granted a work permit, although it is still unclear whether he will make his debut on Saturday against Manchester United. Bryan Robson, the Middlesbrough manager, said last night: "Juninho would need to get a good night's sleep to recover from jet lag and train with the rest of the lads on Thursday and Friday. To be fair to the kid, he cannot just get off a plane on Thursday and be ready for such a big game up at Old Trafford."

One player who can expect to play this weekend is Richard Jobson, who joined Leeds from Oldham yesterday for pounds 1m. The deal represents an about- turn from Leeds, who agreed terms for the 32-year-old central defender three months ago and then backed out of the transfer when a medical revealed a blood disorder. Since then, Jobson has made 16 appearances for Oldham, who hope to replace him by signing Manchester City's Michel Vonk for pounds 350,000.

Barry Venison's pounds 800,000 transfer from Galatasaray of Turkey to Southampton was also completed yesterday, while Rangers are expected to sign Morton's Derek McInnes for pounds 400,000 later this week.