Sky swoops for Football League rights
Tuesday, April 5 2011, 09:31 BST
By Andrew Laughlin,

Sky Sports has agreed a new television rights deal with the Football League, believed to be 23m a season less than the current contract with the BBC.

The new agreement, running for three years from 2012/13, will make live coverage of the Football League, Carling Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy exclusively available on Sky. The deal is worth 195m in total, or 65m a year.

The BBC currently has an 88m-a-year deal to show 10 live Championship games a season, along with the Carling Cup semi-finals and final. It is thought that the corporation opted against bidding for a new Football League deal, at a time when it is facing increasing pressure on its sports rights budget.

The collapse of Setanta in 2009, the BBC's cost-cutting drive and the ongoing economic downturn has left Sky the only realistic bidder for the rights, apart from possibly US broadcaster ESPN.

This situation enabled the satellite broadcaster to drive a hard bargain, but the drop in broadcasting income is nothing compared to when ITV Digital went bust in 2002, when annual income for clubs in the league fell from 105m to 21m pretty much overnight.

Sky will show 75 matches from the Football League each season, including all three finals of the play-offs, along with 15 matches from the Carling Cup, including both legs of each semi-final and the final from Wembley.

Announcing the new deal with Sky, Football League chairman Greg Clarke said: "Sky Sports is a highly-valued partner of The Football League and we are delighted to extend our relationship for a further three seasons. They are a class act and our clubs will welcome their continued support.

"This has been a challenging climate in which to negotiate television rights, given the state of the economy and the lack of competitive tension in the sports broadcasting market.

"I am confident that our clubs will take heart from seeing such a significant ongoing investment in their competitions, despite a reduced level of broadcasting income, as it provides financial certainty in uncertain times."

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, added: "Sky Sports has had a long and successful partnership with The Football League.

"We have seen the growth of attendances, the huge success of the play-offs and some wonderful Carling Cup finals. This new deal will extend the relationship to 2015 and will take us beyond our 1,000th live Football League game.

"Sky Sports will bring viewers more live matches - over 100 a year from across all divisions and each of the league's competitions - and be the home of live league, Carling Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy football."

The Football League said that it was in "ongoing discussions" with terrestrial broadcasters about a highlights package, which is expected to fetch a seven-figure sum.