Telemontecarlo or bust for Channel 4 viewers

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The Independent Online
For fans of Channel Four's excellent Italian football coverage, it may have been a weekend to savour a good thing while it lasts.

In Italy it has been a weekend of uproar, following the decision to award domestic television rights for the first time to a commercial channel, signalling an end to the 40-year monopoly enjoyed by the state network, RAI. This is especially bad news for ex-patriate Italians around the world, which RAI pictures reach by satellite.

Channel Four want to maintain coverage - "we have a loyal audience that often reaches one million," a spokesman said - but may find the asking price much higher after Telemontecarlo, owned by Fiorentina president Vittorio Cecchi Gori, outbid RAI.

RAI fear that Cecchi Gori is less interested in broadcasting calcio than in trading off his newly-acquired rights, pointing out that he is paying 12 million lire for radio rights even though he does not own a radio network, which does seem a little unusual.

But this is a story that might have much wider implications for football coverage in Britain, especially on subscription satellite channels.

Appeals against the Italian League decision have already been lodged with the European parliament, where the sale of rights to minority-audience bidders such as Rupert Murdoch's Sky is a matter of increasing concern.

An unfortunate faux pas was committed by the current edition of the non-League publication, Team Talk magazine, when it commended the durability of Harvey Elliott, the 73-year-old trainer of Chadderton, of the North West Counties League, describing him as "one of the best and fittest trainers around".

Sadly, Elliott, a former professional with Hull who had been involved with several clubs in the NWCL, passed away last month.

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