Football: Smith rap for OFT's TV battle

CHRIS SMITH, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has backed the Premier League in their conflict with the Office of Fair Trading over the sale of television rights.

The OFT have prosecuted the Premier League, claiming that, according to competition policy, the clubs should be free to sell their own rights individually. Smith, however, has backed the Premier League's collective stance, believing that if clubs sold their rights individually, there would be little benefit to the game as a whole.

"The kernel of the Premier League's case is that the collective selling of their rights enables the game as a whole to be enhanced," Smith said. "If individual clubs are allowed to sell their rights, then you would see little benefit at the bottom end."

The Football Association of Wales met yesterday to discuss a replacement for Bobby Gould, and tackled the problem in the way administrators know best - by setting up a six-strong sub-committee to find the right man.

Martin Keown has signed a new pounds 3m three-year contract with Arsenal. The 33-year-old England centre-back agreed terms yesterday on a package worth around pounds 1m a season.

The Gunners have also signed midfielder Stefan Malz from TSV 1860 Munich for an undisclosed fee. Malz, 27, is a left-sided midfielder, who joined 1860 Munich in July 1997 from German club VFR Mannheim.

The California-based Serbian computer tycoon, Milan Mandaric, completed his pounds 5m takeover of First Division Portsmouth yesterday after the deal was approved by creditors and shareholders.

Newcastle United have confirmed the signing of Real Mallorca defender Elena Marcelino in a pounds 5m four-year deal.

Bulgaria international midfielder Milen Petkov is to join Southampton from CSKA Sofia today, for a fee of around pounds 1.25m.

Graham Taylor has dismissed reports that he hopes to sign Hristo Stoichkov. The manager of newly promoted Watford boss of the Premiership new boys says he would not break the club's wage structure to bring in a big-name foreigner.

Taylor, did, however, reportedly talk yesterday to Chesterfield's Northern Ireland centre half Mark Williams, who is free to move under Bosman rules.

Everton have had enquiries from Lens, Lyon and Paris St Germain for Olivier Dacourt who is on sale for pounds 7m. Dacourt cost them pounds 3.8m from Strasbourg last summer.

Stockport County want Macclesfield's Sammy McIlroy as their new manager to replace Gary Megson.