Football: League's new TV deal

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The Independent Online
The Premier League will benefit from growing worldwide interest in Premiership football when it opens negotiations for a new overseas television rights deal.

The current four-year deal, worth between pounds 8m and pounds 9m a year, runs until May 1998, but the Premier League agreed a new deal with BSkyB to show live games in the United Kingdom last summer when the existing deal still had a year to run. That forward planning points to a new four-year overseas deal being agreed this summer.

Mike Lee, a spokesman for the Premier League, while denying that a new deal was close to being agreed, said: "Negotiations have not yet begun, but the Premier League will want to put a new deal in place."

That new deal is bound to reflect the mounting worldwide demand for Premiership football and there has been speculation that it could be worth as much as pounds 25m a year to the Premier League.

Under the existing agreement, pounds 5.5m of the pounds 8m-pounds 9m goes directly to the Premiership clubs and if a new deal fetched pounds 25m, the 20 clubs in the top flight for the 1998-99 season would receive pounds 1m a year each for foreign television rights.

The Premier League is reluctant to put a figure on what the new deal will be worth, but admits it will be much more lucrative than the current one.

"There is no doubt that interest in Premiership football around the world is increasing and has never been greater. The fact is that we've got an extremely watchable product," Lee said.

Keith Branagan, the Bolton goalkeeper, will make his debut for the Republic of Ireland against Wales tomorrow after Alan Kelly suffered a groin injury yesterday. Mick McCarthy, the Republic manager, had no hesitation in giving Branagan his first cap after Kelly's withdrawal.

Brendan Murphy, Wimbledon's reserve team goalkeeper, has been drafted in as cover for Branagan, who has played one B international against England at Anfield two years ago.

Branagan has played two reserve games for Bolton in the past fortnight after recovering from hamstring and shoulder injuries. "It's a great chance for me and I'm delighted that Mick McCarthy even included me in the squad," Branagan said.

McCarthy will not name his team for the friendly at the National Stadium in Cardiff until after today's training session. But apart from Branagan, Derby's veteran defender Paul McGrath is poised to win his 83rd cap - adding to his record Irish tally.

Scotland travelled to Monaco yesterday without four players from the original squad of the manager, Craig Brown.

The Rangers defender Alan McLaren and the strikers Darren Jackson, of Hibernian, and John Spencer, of Queen's Park Rangers, have been added to the absent list started by Chelsea's Craig Burley.

That leaves Brown with a 23-man party to tackle Estonia in their rearranged World Cup qualifier.

Jackson was ruled out with a hamstring injury which has seen him miss the last two games for Hibs. Spencer turned out for QPR in a 2-0 defeat at Ipswich on Saturday, but aggravated an ankle injury.