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The TV Cash Crisis

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 22/03/2002

THE Football League have rejected the proposal from ITV Digital to waive payments for televising matches saying that agreeing to a fee reduction could lead to widespread club collapses.

A League spokesman said: "Nobody should be in any doubt that if this contract is not honoured there will be widespread bankruptcies in many local communities, our national game will be left devastated."

"The board's sensible expectation is that the contract will be honoured and payments made."

The Football League also said that if ITV Digital failed to pay the remaining fees they would pursue Carlton and Granada for the cash. Carlton and Granada deny they are liable.

Some clubs were hoping that the Football League would consider a compromise deal, rather than a stand off situation that may force ITV Digital into bankruptcy, which would then force the League to pursue Carlton and Granada through the courts. But that can take years and, in the meantime, clubs sitting on the brink of financial ruin may well fold before any conclusion is reached.

Surely the sensible way to resolve this crisis is for the League and ITV Digital to sit down and work together to find a solution. If a sensible compromise can be made, clubs who have relied so heavily on the TV income to keep them afloat, may see a reduction in that income but will not lose it all.

It would require the Football League to soften its stance on the issue but the problem with that is, that the very people who, in some cases, gambled with their clubs future by spending TV income in advance are the one's calling the shots.

Which is a bit like asking the fox to mind the chickens!

The situation is critical but not unresolvable. There are no winners in stand off's and sooner or later there has to be a solution found. For the sake of all football clubs let us hope that solution is found quickly before we see more clubs going out of business.

The following proportion of clubs will go straight into administration if the money from ITV Digital doesn't appear:

  • 3rd Division: 75%
  • 2nd Division: 50%
  • 1st Division: 25%

    In our own case, the loss of or reduced TV income will come as a heavy blow but is not expected to drive us into receivership, but belts will have to be even tighter and more cost cutting will have to take place, but we can survive.

    That is not the case with all clubs and we may well see a number of familiar names disappearing off the football scene. And that will be the saddest thing of all.

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