Football: Viewers spoilt for choice as Central move in

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The Independent Online
ARMCHAIR FANS were yesterday guaranteed Sunday afternoon live domestic football next season - without the need for a satellite dish.

Discussions between the Football League and various ITV regions have produced the prospect of more than 100 English club matches on the nation's screens, as the television companies stage a determined battle for viewers.

On many Sundays, supporters will have a choice of three live games, with a Barclays League First Division match on ITV, BSkyB showing Premier League action - and Channel 4 planning live coverage of 30 Italian Serie A matches from September.

Early season Barclays League games will not be shown throughout the ITV network, but Central TV have reached agreement with clubs in their region to show 30 live games. Transmissions will start in August - and London Weekend are expected to follow suit next week when they sit round the table with chairmen of the London clubs. Tyne Tees are also keen to strike a deal with Newcastle and Sunderland in the North-east.

The regional packages are over and above the original pounds 25m four-year ITV agreement that allows for just three Rumbelows Cup ties to be shown live. ITV may now seek to extend their Rumbelows coverage - and will pay the League pounds 250,000 for any First Division matches shown on the network later in the campaign.

These regional deals are subject to separate negotiations with the clubs involved. Lee Walker, the Football League's controller of broadcasting, said: 'We have reached agreement with Central to screen 30 live Sunday games in their area and subsequent meetings will be held with other regions over the next fortnight.'

The League will allow up to four First Division matches per weekend to be switched to Sundays for regional showing. West Ham's first three weekend games - Barnsley away on 15 August, Charlton home (22) and Newcastle away (29) - have all been put back 24 hours.

Chris Waddle completed his pounds 1m move from Marseille to Sheffield Wednesday yesterday after passing a medical examination. Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager, revealed that he he had had to see off competition from Leeds United and Monaco, who both tried to prise the 31-year-old forward away from Hillsborough after he had agreed to sign for Francis.

Waddle, who was dropped by the England manager, Graham Taylor, for the European Championship finals in Sweden, had his first training session with his new team-mates yesterday.

'I want Chris to play for Wednesday and get back in the England team,' Francis said. 'If he didn't have that desire there's no way I would have taken him.'

Bobby Gould, the Coventry City manager, made one of his frequent forays into the lower divisions transfer market yesterday when he paid pounds 500,000 for Phil Babb, the 21-year-old Bradford City full-back. As Babb arrived, Paul Furlong was leaving Coventry. The 23-year-old former Enfield striker signed for Watford for pounds 250,000.

Kevin Drinkell, Coventry's former Norwich and Rangers striker, is on trial with Falkirk. Bradford spent some of the money received for Babb on Leicester City's

24-year-old midfield player Paul Reid, who has moved up the M1 for pounds 25,000.

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