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TV Highlights Blow For Football League

By: Tony Hamilton
Date: 29/09/2002

TALKS between the Football League and Carlton and Granada about the rights to TV highlights have stalled over a row about its place on the ITV Digital creditors list.

It is believed the league wants to do a deal with ITV but is insisting the ITV giants allow it to recover some of the £178.5m it was owed when ITV Digital went bust.

The Football League failed to recoup the money in court and is now seeking assurances it will be pushed up the rank of creditors if it does a deal.

In return the league would sign a cut-price deal with Carlton and Granada to allow them to show highlights of games in their own areas.

This is despite the fact that ITV Digital's administration, and imminent liquidation, is in the hands of Deloitte & Touche rather than Carlton and Granada.

But Carlton and Granada, owed £402m, are ITV Digital's biggest creditors, having pumped about £1.1bn into the service during its lifespan.

The league, meanwhile, is still owed £178.5m of its £315m rights deal.

One insider suggested the latest bargaining tactic represented "one last desperate throw of the dice" for the Football League.

Talks have been complicated because 10 games of the new season have already been played and ITV has ruled out a network-wide deal for the highlights, leaving the league with few options.

The BBC is believed to have cooled on the idea of grabbing the highlights, while Channel 5 is keeping a watching brief.

Despite having agreed a £95m, four-year deal with Sky for live matches, the 73 Football League clubs are desperate to agree a highlights deal in order to fulfil obligations to sponsors.

And having already lost out on around £125m after the collapse of ITV Digital, they are desperate to salvage something - even if it means getting back into bed with Carlton and Granada.

Another sticking point is believed to centre on the fact the last-minute deal signed with Sky contained so many restrictions on when highlights can be shown it devalues any possible highlights package.

While the Football League values the rights at more than £2m, Carlton and Granada are believed to be willing to pay no more than £1m.

A Football League spokesman said it was still in discussions with three terrestrial broadcasters but refused to comment further.

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