The Football Association last night withdrew its pounds 118.5m television offer to the Football League after clubs failed to meet the deadline for a decision on a new deal.
The 72 Endsleigh League chairmen met in London for three hours to discuss the five-year offer by the FA and a rival bid from the Premier League. The FA had already given them a two-week extension to reach a verdict, but the Football League again failed to decide between the two options.
The FA's director of public affairs, David Davies, said: "It's deeply disappointing that, after almost six months of debate with the League's representatives, a request for still more time should be made. Well, it is not available. We are not prepared to enter into any form of auction that might follow a succession of deadline extensions."
The FA's offer was worth pounds 18.5m to the League for 1996/97 and pounds 25m per annum for the four years after that, but League officials were believed to be unhappy over other aspects of the offer, such as the proposed surrender of control of its commercial properties - a clause not contained in the rival offer from the Premier League.
Full details of the Premier League's offer have still to be thrashed out, but it is known to rest on a payment of a minimum 20 per cent of joint TV income.
Gordon McKeag, the Football League chairman, admitted that failing to meet the FA deadline was a risk, but said: "We are disappointed but not entirely surprised by the FA's decision. They, the governing body, must be concerned for the game as a whole. They must realise that there are genuine concerns which have yet to be resolved."
Trevor Phillips, the FA's commercial director, said: "Here we are with a carefully calculated, well thought-out offer and against that we have smoke and mirrors and statements [from the Premier League] which are made without any real grasp of the situation."
Phillips addressed the meeting, as did Rick Parry, the Premier League's chief executive, who said: "We are pleased with the Football League's decision because we feel it is the right decision for football. We don't actually need the Endsleigh League to help with our TV negotiations, but we recognised our responsibilities to the whole of the game and that message appears to have got through."
Everton are ready to take the Scottish FA to law in their attempt to overturn this week's decision by an independent tribunal that Duncan Ferguson must serve a 12-match ban (for a head-butting offence while a Rangers player) after his release from a three-month prison sentence for the same offence.
Everton's chairman, Peter Johnson, said: "We requested a judicial review as we do not believe people should be punished twice." Ferguson's former club, Rangers, have agreed a fee for the Morton midfielder, Derek McInnes, after two weeks of talks with the 25-year-old.
Roy Hodgson, the Internazionale manager, has discouraged bids for Paul Ince, his allegedly unsettled England midfielder. "Ince is staying with us," he told reporters in Milan yesterday, adding that he was not aware of "any difficulty that might have made him wish to return to England".
Klas Ingesson's unhappy stay with Sheffield Wednesday has come to an end: the Swedish international has joined the Italian club, Bari, for pounds 900,000 after making only 22 appearances since moving from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 1994.
The Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, has denied reports that he has had a pounds 2m bid for Birmingham City's Republic of Ireland centre-half, Liam Daish, turned down. This sort of thing gets up my nose," Kinnear said. "I would expect all 72 of their players for pounds 2m."
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