League signs two-year ITV deal for highlights

Martyn Ziegler
Wednesday 30 October 2002 01:00
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The Football League has signed a two-year deal for highlights to be shown on ITV, despite continuing antipathy among some clubs towards the broadcaster after the ITV Digital fiasco.

An agreement has been reached where the League will receive £2m and a £3m advance on the liquidation of ITV Digital. The League will not have to pay Carlton and Granada's estimated £1m costs from their recent failed legal action against the ITV owners.

Every club in the League was asked for their opinion on accepting the ITV deal and, no doubt because there was no other option, only a small handful opposed it. Given the parlous financial state a number of clubs have been left in by the ITV Digital collapse, many take the view that any money is better than none.

The 72 clubs will receive immediate cash payments of £111,000 for those in the First Division, £54,000 for Second Division sides, and £42,000 for those in the Third. Highlights from the Nationwide League, Worthington Cup and LDV Vans Trophy will be screened on a regional basis from as soon as this weekend.

Richard Masters, the Football League's commercial director, said: "Despite recent history the fact remains that ITV's unrivalled regional network is a natural partner for the Football League. This new agreement will give supporters the access to their club's goals to which they have become accustomed, a level of access that no other terrestrial broadcaster can match."

Masters said that the possibility of further payments from the liquidation will remain, adding: "The agreement provides not only an advance on monies from the liquidation, it also reserves the League's position with regard to possible future payments made by the liquidator."

Peter Heard, the acting chairman of the League, said that ITV Digital's collapse had made the deal difficult for some clubs to accept. "There can be no denying that this was a difficult decision for the League to make, given the reasons behind the serious financial hardship that a number of our clubs are currently facing," he said.

"However we must now begin to look to the future and having consulted with all our clubs I believe it right to enter into an agreement that will give more supporters the opportunity to see their club's goals, will deliver much-needed finance and will ensure the level of exposure that our sponsors have come to expect."

Graeme Le Saux has resigned as Chelsea's players' union representative to remove himself from negotiations in the wake of the first-team squad's row with the club over bonuses. Le Saux felt the issue had become "personal" and has therefore decided to step down from the role to ensure that he does not suffer a long-term fall-out with the Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates.

The 34-year-old defender, the club's longest-serving professional, recently pressed the players' case for a £20,000-per-man bonus, to which they felt entitled after qualifying for the Uefa Cup.

However, Bates insisted that this was only due to them if they had qualified through the Premier League and not as FA Cup runners-up.

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