UK Football League Readies £500m Suit Against ITVd Parents

03 April 2002

Britain’s Football League (the three soccer divisions below the elite Premier League) has warned Carlton Communications and Granada Media that it will take them to court if they fail to honour the debts of their dTV platform ITV Digital, now in administration.

ITVd owes the League two further payments of £89.25m ($128.2m; €145.8m) for the remaining two years of a £315m broadcast rights deal. The cash-burning platform insisted it could not afford to pay, suggesting a total payoff of £50m – an offer the League promptly rejected [WAMN: 22-Mar-02].

The League is demanding that Carlton and Granada – ITVd’s owners – honour the debt, claiming that failure to do so would force several football clubs into bankruptcy. However, the media groups insist they have no such obligation, since a so-called ‘long-form’ contract providing parental guarantees was never signed.

In a move seen by some observers as a softening of its stance, the League said it would be willing to negotiate over the final payment of £89.25m, as long as the first instalment is made on time in August.

If ITVd refuses, the League is ready to go to court, seeking £500m to cover the outstanding payments, damages and costs. Chief executive David Burns accused Granada and Carlton of deliberately failing to sign the ‘long-form’ contract, having decided “as long ago as last October” to close the platform and avoid the final payments.

Separately, the League received a further blow with the news that its flagship cup competition will lose its sponsor, beer brand Worthington. New owner Coors Brewers has opted not to renew Worthington’s £4m-a-year deal when it expires next season.

Data sourced from: The Times (London); Financial Times; BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff