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Leeds to play Derby friendly as TV rights row continues
Friday, 6th Jan 2017 14:40 by Tim Whelan

Leeds and Derby County have arranged a friendly in an attempt to demonstrate the potential for clubs to arrange their own TV deals, independent of the Football League.

For some time the owners of both clubs have been critical of the collective TV deal the Football League currently has with Sky, presently worth £100million a year and distributed among all 72 of the League’s member clubs.

Derby’s chairman Mel Morris thinks the FL should be able to bring in far more and is looking for support from other member clubs, and is also irritated that he hasn’t been allowed to see the current deal.

He told the Mail “My quest is to ensure the Football League is able to efficiently and successfully grow our brand and our revenues. I am underwhelmed by our lack of stature and the weak levels of monetisation of our media rights and the seeming lack of efforts, focus and results delivered by those responsible. We believe there are significant opportunities for all of us to generate meaningful incremental revenue”.

But the League are convinced that the current Sky deal is a good one and have yet to see any evidence to the contrary, even though it falls well below the riches available in the Premier League. But they are in the process of appointing a broadcasting expert to prepare for the next round of TV deals.

At Leeds we have of course had our own battles with the Football League, with Massimo complaining about the number of times we are selected for coverage, and that the broadcast fee doesn’t make up for the amount we lose in matchday revenue. He began legal action (since put on hold) to dismantle the collective deal and allow clubs to sell their own TV rights. This would benefit the bigger clubs in the FL, but at the expense of most of the others.

And then came Andrea Radrizzani, with background as the founder of sport media agency MP&Silva. It could well be that his interest in Leeds all along has been to increase his company’s chances of getting their hands on lucrative TV rights from English football. Preferably from the Premier League, but while we remain in the FL he would no doubt want to maximise the amount we can get from selling our games in that competition.

So Leeds were obvious allies for the Derby Chairman to seek out in his battle with the League’s board, and the two clubs have arranged to play a friendly at Pride Park on the Saturday of the international break in March. It’s believed the clubs will sell rights to this game (as it’s not under the auspices of the FL) to demonstrate the potential for clubs to sell the rights separately.

It remains to be seen how much will be raised from this game, with it being just a friendly. Will any of the main broadcasters pay to cover it in the middle of an international weekend, where there will be plenty of other games on TV? How much interest will there be from the fans of the two clubs six weeks before the end of the season when it has no bearing on the battle for the play-offs?

It could that the FL could get more from the collective deal, but if the rights were worth more than the £100m a year paid by Sky I would have thought another broadcaster would have tried to out-bid them. And there is no chance of the majority of FL clubs voting to end the collective deal, so we would face a difficult legal battle to try to enforce a system where clubs to sell their League games to broadcasters themselves.

And if we ever did end up with a system of individual clubs selling their own home fixtures, we may well end up having every one of our away games being moved for TV, (as the smaller clubs try to get some broadcasting revenue whenever they can) will all the inconvenience that would cause for our travelling fans.

Leeds United might have to just face the fact that the club won’t get a significant increase in our income from broadcasting until such time as we get back to the Premier League.


Photo: Action Images



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