The Football League last night pointed the finger of blame at Leeds United amid growing anger over the decision to move the club’s forthcoming clash with Middlesbrough to a Monday night.
The governing body said legal action taken by Leeds had prevented Sky Sports from confirming next month’s Championship fixture as a live broadcast until four weeks before the original date.
Sky and the Football League are under fire over the last-minute decision to rearrange Boro’s visit to Elland Road from Saturday, February 13 to Monday, February 15.
The development has frustrated fans and escalated an already bitter dispute between United owner Massimo Cellino and the Football League over fixture disruption.
That dispute intensified around Christmas when Cellino threatened to shut Sky out of Leeds’ 2-2 draw with Derby County. Leeds said at the time that they were trying to challenge repeated television dates “through the appropriate legal routes”, claiming Sky’s selection of United games – 13 so far this season – was “entirely disproportionate”.
But in the face of criticism from supporters of both Leeds and Boro, including more than 100 Scandinavian fans who plan to attend next month’s game, the League said United had been made aware of Sky’s request to broadcast in December and delayed confirmation by launching legal proceedings.
A Football League spokesman said: “It is a matter of regret to The Football League that supporters of Leeds United and Middlesbrough have only been informed of the new date at such a late stage. Like other matches being broadcast during February, this game was originally selected for transmission by Sky Sports in early December with home clubs asked to make the necessary arrangements at the time.
“However, as was referenced by Leeds United in its statement of December 29, the club has challenged the League “through the appropriate legal routes”, which has prevented confirmation of the date of this fixture until now.”