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Another Cash Blow For League Clubs?

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 12/03/2003

THE Football League's 72 clubs are threatened with the loss of a further £35 million with fears that their internet partner Premium TV could close down.

A subsidiary of NTL, it has renegotiated its original £65 million, 20-year contract and the clubs' official web sites face closure if the new deal, which is paid partly according to the number of "hits" to the sites, collapses. Like the ITV Digital deal, the web site contract was signed during the "dot com" boom era, and is far more lucrative than it would be had it been negotiated today.

But the company is now reported to be in trouble and are announcing further redundancies with a financial trouble shooter, Rob Henwood, appointed as acting managing director.

Would you also believe that, once again, the Football League have no "shareholder liability guarantee" the same situation that got Carlton and Granada off the hook with the ITV Digital collapse?

The income from the official sites has helped to offset some of the losses incurred with the failure of the ITV Digital deal and clubs like Grimsby Town will surely miss that income if the boat goes down.

The clubs will continue, no doubt, to have a web site but their only income from them will be from advertising sales and other projects aimed at raising funds.

The financial pressure is becoming even greater on the clubs in the football league and it leaves the question of who is protecting their interests.

Not the FA, who are rumoured to be delaying the payment of the premier league's assistance package to league clubs, and the league can hardly claim to be doing so after agreeing to another "no guarantee contract."

But one has to remember that the people making the decisions are those same club chairmen who have allowed their own clubs to run up debts of £20million or more.

A bit like letting the mice mind the cheese factory!

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