POWER PLAY

Cham­pi­onship big-hit­ters flex­ing their mus­cles as tele­vi­sion rum­pus con­tin­ues

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

THE bit­ter TV rights war that has erupted be­tween the EFL and a host of Cham­pi­onship clubs is a power play by the divi­sion’s big­gest hit­ters.

That is the view of two prom­i­nent EFL chair­men who be­lieve the dis­puted £595m deal with Sky is merely a stag­ing post in a big­ger bat­tle.

“This is about a group of wealthy Cham­pi­onship chair­men who want to get their own way and prove they have more clout than the board,” said one.

THE bit­ter TV rights war that has erupted be­tween the EFL and a host of Cham­pi­onship clubs is a power play by the divi­sion’s big­gest hit­ters.

That is the view of two prom­i­nent EFL chair­men who be­lieve that the dis­puted £595m deal with Sky is merely a stag­ing post in a big­ger bat­tle.

Nine­teen sec­ond-tier clubs had stated their op­po­si­tion to the five-year deal and urged the EFL to rene­go­ti­ate ahead of last Mon­day’s 4pm dead­line. Ob­jec­tions ranged from con­cerns over the value and length of the con­tract to the avail­abil­ity of all mid­week games on the red but­ton.

The EFL board – led by chief ex­ec­u­tive Shaun Har­vey – signed the deal any­way and it was re­ported on Fri­day that seven clubs – led by Leeds, As­ton Villa and Derby – have now ap­pointed lawyers to chal­lenge its le­gal­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the Times, they be­lieve that the board’s fail­ure to share de­tails of the fi­nal con­tract be­fore it was signed and its re­fusal to show clubs le­gal ad­vice – stat­ing that Sky would sue if they did not go ahead with the deal – of­fer suf­fi­cient grounds for the con­tract to be scrapped.

Pub­licly, the an­tag­o­nists are ar­gu­ing that the EFL un­der­val­ued the Cham­pi­onship and a bet­ter deal should be sought, but the chair­man of a League One club says the real mo­tive is to put the EFL in their place.

Clout

“I think this is about power-broking,” he said. “I think this is about a group of wealthy, pow­er­ful Cham­pi­onship chair­men who want to get their own way and prove that they have more clout than the board - which they can af­ford to do be­cause they’ve got tremen­dous wealth.

“One thing I’ve learned in this game is that cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als run their busi­nesses with com­plete ruth­less­ness. There’s an ego­tism to it. They’re de­ter­mined to prove their strength and that’s why they’ve taken this stance.

“How much re­al­ity there is to the ar­gu­ment, how far they can ac­tu­ally take this and what the con­clu­sion will be – that’s all to be seen. But if this was re­ally about get­ting the best TV deal, any con­clu­sion would have to be linked to an al­ter­na­tive of­fer and where is it? No­body has seen it.”

One Cham­pi­onship chair­man said the dis­pute rep­re­sented a “howl of frus­tra­tion” over the ever-in­creas­ing gulf be­tween the Cham­pi­onship and the Pre­mier League, where the last TV deal was worth £5.14bn.

“Clubs like Derby, As­ton Villa, Leeds – they’re big clubs who feel they de­serve to be in the Pre­mier League,” he said. “But be­cause they’ve been out of it so long, they’re un­able to com­pete with all these teams com­ing down with £40m in para­chute pay­ments. The only way they can get pro­moted is to break the rules or find a new owner. It’s de­mor­al­is­ing. It’s frus­trat­ing. I’ve got a lot of sym­pa­thy for them.

“This TV deal – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Be­cause even if we got an ex­tra three, four, five mil­lion quid, would it make a dif­fer­ence? No.

“The real prob­lem is para­chute pay­ments and the enor­mous gap they cre­ate. They were set up to sus­tain clubs com­ing down to the Cham­pi­onship who had play­ers on two or three-year con­tracts.

“But, over time, those pay­ments have got big­ger and big­ger. And in­stead of cov­er­ing con­tracts, the money is be­ing spent on trans­fer fees of £12m or £15m for one player. Peo­ple try to com­pete and what do you have? The most in­debted divi­sion in Europe. It’s the most un­rest and dis­con­tent I’ve known in my time and it’s all come to a head around this is­sue.

“Every­body is en­vi­ous of the Pre­mier League. They’ve been led, mar­keted. Richard Scu­d­amore has done a mar­vel­lous job. And I think what a lot of clubs are say­ing is ‘Where is the Richard Scu­d­amore of the Foot­ball League? That’s the crux of it.”

The EFL have not com­mented on the le­gal ac­tion, with all 24 Cham­pi­onship clubs set to meet on Tues­day to dis­cuss their next move.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.