Football: Arsenal ponder swap deal for Keane

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL and Nottingham Forest are understood to be considering a part-exchange deal which would take the Republic of Ireland midfielder Roy Keane to Highbury. In return, the central defender Andy Linighan and England striker Alan Smith would join the Premier League's bottom club, who would also receive a cash adjustment. Keane, 21, was signed for pounds 20,000 from Cobh Ramblers in 1990 but is now valued by Forest at pounds 3m.

The two clubs have made disappointing starts to the season, and the deal would appear to meet the needs of both. Forest have looked increasingly vulnerable at the back since the sales of Des Walker and Darren Wassall in the summer, and have lost an attacking focus following the departure of Teddy Sheringham to Tottenham for pounds 2.1m last month.

Arsenal have plenty of centre-halves, with Linighan, 30, unable to establish himself as a first-team regular since arriving from Norwich for pounds 1.25m in July 1990. Smith, 29, who began the season on the sidelines, may also be surplus to requirements, though he has forced his way back into the first-team in recent weeks.

The deal appears more likely following reports yesterday that Laurent Blanc, Napoli's French international sweeper, is about to join the French club Nimes on loan before joining Marseille, at the end of the season. Forest had expressed an interest in signing Blanc, initially on loan.

The Scottish Football Association added its voice to the condemnation of BSkyB yesterday when it criticised last night's transmission of Paul Gascoigne's comeback game in Italy. Any trust it had with the satellite station has gone and it will refuse to do business with it again.

A pounds 12m three-year deal by which BSkyB showed live international and Cup football from Scotland ended last May and Jim Farry, chief executive of the SFA, said it would not enter into another one. 'In any partnership you need a basis of mutual trust and harmony and the events of this week do not appear to be conducive to that,' he said.

'We now have an uneasy relationship with BSkyB and share the English FA's concern about the broadcast of this game, a spurious friendly, and the way TV went about the whole business. I wonder whether it has shown up the thin veneer of their interest in football on the wider scale against the need to sell their dishes and subscriptions. We were happy dealing with British Satellite Broadcasting for the first two years of our arrangement but when it amalgamated with Sky during the third year things changed.'

So angered were officials at Lancaster Gate by BSkyB's willingness to take them to court to challenge, and overcome, the FA's right of veto under Uefa ruling 14 of Lazio's friendly with Tottenham that they said the basis of a pounds 60m five-year contract for satellite to show England internationals and FA Cup ties was now in serious doubt. Yesterday BSkyB hit back claiming it was assured those prestige games would become part of its schedules along with exclusive live coverage of Premier League football.

'Both contracts are signed,' a spokesman said. 'In the case of the FA Cup-internationals tie-up so far only a short contract has been drawn but it is signed and is a legally binding agreement and as far as we are concerned there are no problems.'

It also defended its actions in the High Court. 'People have been waiting 17 months to see Gascoigne's comeback. It was an emotional occasion and we wanted to show it.'

Yet by colliding head on with the wishes of the home associations - the Welsh and Irish FAs also raised objections - and of the 18 clubs hosting Coca-Cola Cup ties last night, may, when future deals are being discussed, not prove to have been wise.

Farry believes the English game will pay a heavy price for embracing television so whole-heartedly. 'Too much live televised football will kill the game,' he said. 'In Scotland we have only four live games this season. We haven't asked for but we are receiving from England 60 games from the Premier League and 24 Italian League matches. Matches, incidentally, which are not shown live in Italy where they are more careful to weigh up the merits of saturation exposure. Before long we will find the TV authorities running the game and the need for bodies like the FA will no longer exist.'