Leeds United: Derby confirm plans for Whites friendly as TV rights battle hots up

Leeds United and Derby County clash at Pride Park earlier this season.
Leeds United and Derby County clash at Pride Park earlier this season.

Derby County have announced plans to play a friendly against Leeds United at Pride Park during the international break in March as part of a tussle over TV rights with the Football League.

Derby chief executive Sam Rush said the clubs would meet next year in an effort to “demonstrate the extent of the potential revenue opportunities that exist” among the League’s 72 teams.

Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino.

Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino.

County and Leeds have been a loggerheads with the League over the terms of the organisation’s broadcast agreement with Sky Sports.

United owner Massimo Cellino fought a running battle with the League last season, complaining bitterly about repeated fixture changes caused by Sky’s live broadcasts and taking legal action in a bid to challenge the existing media rights deal.

The governing body was forced to seek an injunction to compel Leeds to accept a televised date for a Championship game against Middlesbrough at Elland Road in February.

Cellino has long argued that the League’s long-term deal with Sky is poor value for money and he was frustrated by its repeated refusal to show Championship clubs the terms of the confidential deal with Sky. The arrangement is estimated to be worth around £100m a year.

Derby owner Mel Morris is also a critic of the status quo and the arrangement of next year’s friendly - due to be played at an advanced stage of the Championship run-in - is an attempt to prove the earning power of clubs outwith the broadcast restrictions imposed by the League.

The international break falls between Leeds’ game at home to Brighton on March 18 and their trip to Reading on April 1.

United have not commented on the proposed friendly but the club are in discussions with County about a date for the game. Leeds, who like Derby are in firm contention for promotion, see a change to broadcast rights as a way of countering substantial parachute payments paid to sides relegated from the Premier League.

Writing in Derby’s programme ahead of their 1-0 win over Birmingham City yesterday, Rush said: “You will hear more in the coming weeks about the friendly game we have planned, here at Pride Park, between Derby County and Leeds United in the March international break.

“Outside the parameters of normal broadcasting restrictions, it will be an opportunity amongst other things for both clubs to demonstrate the extent of the potential revenue opportunities that exist.

“We have been struck by the strength of feeling about issues impacting the clubs throughout the three divisions of the Football League. Mel (Morris) is passionate about ensuring all 72 clubs together have an enhanced future.”