League's Sky 'safeguards'

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The Premier League has moved to assuage fears that BSkyB will have too much power following the satellite broadcaster's investment in Sunderland.

The Premier League has moved to assuage fears that BSkyB will have too much power following the satellite broadcaster's investment in Sunderland.

BSkyB has paid £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."

Meanwhile, Sunderland plan to follow Manchester United in promoting their own television station after BSkyB's investment, which will initially be £4.65m and then a further £1.85m should Sunderland stay in the Premiership. The bulk of the money will 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.

"Sky will be our exclusive adviser on certain media and commercial aspects of the business," said David Stonehouse, the financial director. "For this they are paying an initial £4.65m consideration fee and they were quite keen to have a contingency element in the arrangement so £1.85m is contingent of the club remaining in the Premiership.

"I think we are fairly hopeful we will get that £1.85m and Sky will be our advisers on all broadcasting and TV rights, a possible Sunderland TV channel and Euro competitions. They will advise us when to go ahead and at what price. They have first-hand experience with Manchester United and this deal has brought it closer for us. We clearly want to be at the leading edge of media."

The Sunderland chairman, Bob Murray, said despite the £2.5m signing of Kevin Kilbane from West Bromwich Albion this week, further funds are still available for strengthening his squad.

"Peter Reid has money available and that gets adjusted from time to time," he said. "He occasionally buys and he occasionally sells so it's a moving picture. But we are only one of two clubs out of 22 who have not lost money since floating on the Stock Exchange and are in a better position than we have been for decades."