Clubs will go bust 'even with ITV deal'

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Some Football League clubs will probably go bankrupt even if a last-ditch agreement is reached with ITV Digital.

That was the warning of Andy Pennington, the editor of Sport Business TV, a company specialising in the assessment of sports finance. Deloitte and Touche, the administrators for ITV Digital, are due to go to the High Court on Monday to give an update on negotiations with various creditors.

Carlton and Granada, ITV Digital's backers, have warned that the ailing pay television station will close unless agreement is reached, specifically over the £350m three-year contract with the Football League, which has not yet reached the end of its first season.

The Football League chairman, Keith Harris, said that as many as 30 of his organisation's 72 members would go bust unless ITV Digital paid the remainder of the money. But Pennington believes there will be some casualties, whatever the outcome of talks. "The clubs who are just surviving on television money to pay their players won't survive. The amounts of money people have paid for television rights over the past four or five years has risen sharply. Now it has got to the point of no return.

"It is a worldwide problem, but there has to be some re-evaluation because the figures which have been paid cannot be justified in terms of the subscriber numbers. There would have to have been some shake-up in the structure anyway. Even in the Conference there are some players earning £1,000 a week. I don't think the situation we have now is sustainable."

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