Football: Stadium of Light joins Sky TV's expanding empire

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The Independent Online
THE PREMIER LEAGUE has moved to calm fears that BSkyB will have too much power following the satellite broadcaster's investment in Sunderland.

BSkyB has paid pounds 6.5m for a 5 per cent stake in Sunderland to go alongside its holdings in Manchester United, Leeds United and Manchester City. The investment has led to concerns that BSkyB could become too influential in the running of the Premiership.

However, the Premier League stresses there are several safeguards in place to make sure the integrity of the Premiership is preserved. Mike Lee, a spokesman, said: "The Premier League has a very robust set of rules on these matters. In addition to the 10 per cent rule, which governs the limits on stakeholding within clubs, we have extensive provisions to prevent undue influence or association between clubs. The board also has reserve powers to intervene if they think there is any threat to the integrity of competition."

Lee also stressed that BSkyB's investment in the four clubs would not give them an unfair advantage in the next negotiations for the broadcast rights to the Premiership. He insisted the bidding process for the next contract would be unbiased.

"The Premier League and its clubs are committed to ensuring an open and transparent bidding process for our next TV contracts," he said. "Everything will be clear and above board as we enter the negotiations and bidding process."

Sunderland plan to follow Manchester United in promoting their own television station after BSkyB's investment, which will initially be pounds 4.65m and then a further pounds 1.85m should Sunderland stay in the Premiership. The bulk of the money will be used to enable the club to construct one of the best youth academies in the country, help fund a ground extension now in progress and give Peter Reid, the manager, further spending power in the transfer market.

The Sunderland chairman, Bob Murray, said despite the pounds 2.5m signing of Kevin Kilbane from West Brom, further funds are still available for players.