Britain's Football League appears to have scored an own-goal in its High Court case which sought to recoup £131.9 million ($206.3m; €208.84m) in broadcast rights fees owed by ITV Digital, until its bankruptcy earlier this year jointly owned by Carlton Communications and Granada Media.

Giving his decision yesterday (Thursday), Mr Justice Langley rejected the League’s argument that the ITV duo were responsible for the debts of their former subsidiary, neither company having given any formal guarantees. Nor did M’Lud baulk at a mixed metaphor, opining: “In my judgement the Football League’s case falls at this first and fundamental hurdle.”

The League is now considering an appeal. “There’s no doubt that the result will put in jeopardy the finances of many of the football clubs,” said chief executive David Burns.

Says Delia Smith the nation’s favourite TV cook and a major shareholder and director of first division Norwich City Football Club: “Today's decision means we have been left with a £2m hole in our budget for each of the next two years.”

Whether or not a replay is granted and whatever the final score the real winners, as ever, will be the law trade. Many observers believe the League will now file an action against the legal firm that drafted the contract with ITV Digital; while another possibility is that the League itself will be on the receiving end of a lawsuit from one or more of the soccer clubs whose income has been decimated.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff