The EFL has risked an angry backlash from clubs in the Championship by signing a controversial new TV deal with Sky Sports.
Representatives of all 24 Championship teams, including Leeds United, will gather at Villa Park tomorrow to discuss their next move after seeing objections to Sky’s new contract rejected by the EFL’s board.
The governing body was under pressure to drop its five-year agreement with Sky - a contract which is set to start next season - having received multiple complaints about the terms of it.
A majority of Championship sides wanted the EFL to renegotiate the deal, citing issues with the sum Sky was ready to pay and the introduction of the broadcaster’s new red-button service for midweek matches.
Owners including United’s majority shareholder Andrea Radrizzani, a man who made his fortune in sports TV rights and controls online broadcast outlet Eleven Sports, believe the contract undervalues the Championship and threatens other revenue streams on evenings when Sky’s red-button scheme allows an increased number of games to be televised.
Sky are committed to paying £595m over the next five years, equating to £119m a season and an increase on the current annual figure of £90m. Under that deal, Championship clubs stand to earn around £3m a year before any payments received for live appearances.
Leeds, who are the most televised club in the division, have been at the forefront of opposition to the new Sky contract alongside Derby County owner Mel Morris and other executives in the league. Radrizzani attended a meeting of Championship sides last week but is not expected to be at tomorrow’s summit at Villa Park.
In a statement issued this evening after a meeting of the EFL board, the governing body said it had listened to complaints about Sky’s proposal but ruled that the deal was “in the overall best interests of the EFL.”
It maintained throughout the process that Sky’s offer was the only viable bid on the table for domestic rights.
“At the outset of the meeting, the board noted its responsibility to ensure a sustainable and profitable league that gives all clubs an environment to prosper and succeed,” the statement read.
“The board considered all relevant material, which included correspondence from Championship clubs, and in view of all the information available it determined that it was in the overall best interests of the EFL to sign the five-year, £595m agreement.
“The deal has been designed to maximise both the financial return and exposure for all 72 member clubs, the EFL and its competitions.”
Tomorrow’s meeting of Championship sides - one of several which have taken place in the past month - is likely to look at possible ways to challenge Sky’s contract and could bring fresh pressure to bear on the EFL and its chief executive, Shaun Harvey.
Debbie Jevans, the EFL’s interim chairperson, promised that the organisation would look again at its methods of negotiations after weeks of bitter wrangling and division.
“Concluding these negotiations has indeed been challenging, as is the case when managing a diverse group of stakeholders,” Jevans said.
“The board took on board the comments and frustrations voiced by a number of clubs and has committed to reviewing the way the league engages with its clubs to ensure that we move forward in a collaborative way in the future.”