Wrangling starts over sharing Premier TV deal

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Football's new television deal does not even start for another season but already its beneficiaries are putting down markers over the spoils.

Football's new television deal does not even start for another season but already its beneficiaries are putting down markers over the spoils.

In a thinly veiled threat to the Premiership's smaller clubs Colin Hutchinson, Chelsea's chief executive, said at the weekend that the leading English clubs were already unable to compete financially with those of the Continent and any attempt to change the way the £1.6bn deal is divided could lead to fireworks.

Writing in the club's programme for Saturday's match against West Ham Hutchinson, having noted Real Madrid's £38m expenditure on Luis Figo said: "Individual - rather than collective - TV deals in Italy and Spain have given the big clubs there more clout. It is said some are mortgaging TV income several years ahead.

"Clubs like Real Madrid are able to sell TV rights for around £50m [nearly double what the top English clubs can expect under the new TV deal]."

Hutchinson added: "How much longer before top Premiership clubs start looking enviously at negotiating their own TV contracts? Currently, collective rights are split 50 per cent equally, 25 per cent allocated to TV appearances and 25 per cent paid out via League positions. If some of the smaller clubs start trying to tinker with this founder members' agreement and seek a bigger chunk from the equal share then the fireworks could really fly!"

Meanwhile, Paul Ritchie has left Rangers to sign for Manchester City and is due to make his debut against Sunderland on Wednesdsay. Rangers are willing to sell Ritchie despite fears for the fitness of their captain Lorenzo Amoruso who has a groin injury.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has been invited to train with Manchester United in October with a view to resurrecting his £18.5m move to Old Trafford.

United refused to go ahead with the deal in April when Van Nistelrooy refused an exploratory knee operation. After returning to the Netherlands, the 24-year-old PSV Eindhoven striker collapsed in training with a cruciate ligament injury.

However, United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said at the time that a deal could be revived when the player was fit again. Now Ferguson, delighted that Van Nistelrooy's comeback is well ahead of schedule, has made his move.

"The reports from Ruud are that he is way ahead of schedule and we have invited him to train with us for a month in October," Ferguson said. "If all goes well then the deal will be back on. There is no point talking about figures because the last deal was negotiated in different circumstances. But I expect a new offer would be along similar lines providing, of course, that he is passes our medical."

Van Nistelrooy's recovery was expected to take at least a year, but he has surprised specialists with his progress.