Football: Clubs to hold Murdoch talks

THE PREMIER League is arranging a meeting of all of its clubs - with the exception of Manchester United - to look into the implications of Rupert Murdoch's takeover bid at Old Trafford.

Peter Leaver, the chief executive, has contacted officials to sound them out, and the key issues will be discussed shortly as fears grow about the effect of the proposed BSkyB buy-out.

Chairmen will be called to a meeting, probably within a fortnight, to thrash out worries about the effect of the pounds 625m Murdoch bid on competition and future TV deals involving the Premier League.

The League is in the forefront of this organisation, as revealed by the Independent yesterday, and it has confirmed its submission to the Office of Fair Trading will be asking some tough questions.

Mike Lee, a League spokesman, confirmed that a submission would be made - as requested - to the OFT, which is investigating the proposed takeover. "This is a matter for the competition authorities. We will be seeking clarification on competition issues," he said last night. The Professional Footballers' Association is preparing a submission which will back up the argument that United could become too powerful for the Premiership. Some Premier League chairmen have expressed reservations about the takeover, suggesting it could lead to a conflict of interests in television negotiations.

Liverpool's Paul Ince, the former Manchester United midfielder, may miss tomorrow's Premiership encounter with his old club at Anfield. The England stalwart is doubtful because of a knee injury which has kept him out of his club's last two fixtures.

Liverpool's German international centre-forward Karlheinz Riedle is fit again after a groin strain and is ready to compete with Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler for a place up front.

United's injury problems worsened yesterday, with Ronny Johnsen struggling to overcome the ankle injury which has caused him to miss the last two games. He is unlikely to be fit in time.

David May and Teddy Sheringham, who both have knee problems, are also losing their race for fitness.

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