Football: ITV keeps Champions' League

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The Independent Online
ITV has signed a a new three-year deal with Uefa, the governing body of European football, for exclusive British television rights to the Champions' League. The agreement completes a portfolio of football coverage costing ITV pounds 45m per season and also includes the FA Cup and highlights of England's international games.

ITV will not reveal how much it has paid to Uefa to extend an agreement which began from the start of the Champions' League five years ago. However, with England represented in the competition by two teams from next season it will not have come cheaply.

Jeff Farmer, ITV's head of football, said: "It's a tremendous contract for us because the Champions' League delivers tremendous peak-time audiences, as high as 12 million.

"This is undeniably the best club competition in the world and we are thrilled it has been retained on ITV and kept available for a terrestrial audience."

Next season the English champions will be automatically seeded through to the group stages, which have been enlarged to 24 clubs rather than the present 16. The English runners-up and the Scottish champions will join them if they win their ties in the qualifying round, which will be played over two legs.

From the start of next season ITV also has the FA Cup, which is currently broadcast by the BBC. Under the agreement ITV will have an exclusive live game on Sundays from the third round onwards and live coverage of the final.

ITV also has regional coverage of the Coca-Cola Cup and the Nationwide League.