FOOTBALL: BSkyB's holdings `will not affect' new TV deal

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A PREMIER League spokesman has restated the belief that the increased financial involvement of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB in high-profile clubs throughout the country will not affect negotiations for the next television deal.

BSkyB last week took a five per-cent stake in Sunderland after buying shares in Manchester United, Leeds and Manchester City, all of which were just under 10 per-cent, as Premier League guidelines specify.

It has been suggested that the Rupert Murdoch-owned company is looking to gain a foothold in such clubs to use as a bargaining tool when the rights for the next TV contract become available in 2001. But the Premier League spokesman, Mike Lee, dismissed that suggestion, saying: "It's all beyond the collective deal that will be done. We don't accept and don't believe they will have any increased influence in any collective negotiations because that will be done in a very open, transparent way.

"They have a role with those clubs in relation to developing perhaps their own TV channels - but showing things other than Premiership games.

"The collective deal is very much with the Premier League and with the 20 clubs working together. That's a commitment and BSkyB has not bought itself any additional influence. It takes a 20 club vote to secure a TV deal, and looking at the next one, there may be more than one contract up for grabs.

"We have other media companies involved in investing in other Premier League clubs which we regard as being a good thing. Granada has its interest in Liverpool and NTL has invested in Newcastle.

"I'm sure there are many other media players who are looking to have some part in the Premiership TV deal, who are maybe looking at investment and may want to be involved in our negotiations."