Michael Grade, Channel 4's chief executive, said the deal meant sports lovers without access to satellite television could still watch world-class football. He said: 'Now the Premier League deal with B Sky B and the BBC has restricted live top-flight football to those willing to buy a dish and pay a subscription, Channel 4 guarantees viewers can watch the best of world football at no cost to themselves.'
Channel 4 has the rights to broadcast up to 34 of the Italian League's Serie A live games and there will also be 34 Saturday morning highlight shows.
National associations have the right to veto the televising of live matches from abroad when they clash with domestic games. The Football Association has blocked previous attempts to show matches from overseas, but on this occasion it has agreed not to exercise its veto, even though Italian matches will clash with Premier League games.
An FA spokesman said: 'We feel that as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, exporters of televised football in the world we need to approach this matter in an even-handed way and not to impose any double standards.'
Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman, yesterday hailed victory in his eight-year battle to secure ownership of the club's Stamford Bridge ground. He refused to disclose more details but confirmed on Chelsea's Clubcall phone-line service that he had concluded a deal on Tuesday night to purchase the stadium's freehold. Owen Cotter, the new chief executive of landlords Cabra Estates, said: 'Officially we have no comment on this matter at the moment but I would have to say that I believe Chelsea's position to be very secure. Mr Bates may have jumped the gun with this announcement, but that is up to him.'
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