The Football League today welcomed the decision to award the three digital television licences made available by the collapse of ITV Digital to the BBC and Sky, but will still have to fight in the courts for the money owed to the 72 Nationwide clubs.
The League will start legal proceedings in the High Court in London on July 26 against Carlton Communications and Granada - ITV Digital’s owners - claiming they are responsible for the £189.5million television money owed to clubs.
Today’s announcement that a joint ITV/Channel 4 bid, involving Carlton and Granada, had lost out to the BBC/BSkyB, was greeted with satisfaction by the League.
League head of communications John Nagle said: ‘‘The Football League was extremely perturbed by the possibility that companies given licences to run a digital terrestrial service, only to close it down while still owing over £800million to suppliers including our clubs, should be given the opportunity to do so again.
‘‘We are pleased that the Independent Television Commission shares this view.
‘‘This decision will not directly affect the ongoing dispute between the Football League and Carlton and Granada.’’
The League have regained the rights to Nationwide football and are still in negotiation with several broadcasters, believed to be the BBC, Sky and the terrestrial arm of ITV, about screening league matches next season. They are expected to make an announcement in the next three to four weeks.
The ITC said they considered a range of factors in coming to their decision, including proposals for implementing and improving coverage and the ability to establish and maintain the proposed service throughout the 12-year licence period.
The BBC-BSkyB bid, submitted jointly with transmitter company Crown Castle - was considered best-suited to fulfilling the requirements and promoting digital terrestrial television (DTT) by marketing strategies.
Sir Robin Biggam, chairman of the ITC, said: The Commission believes that the BBC-Crown Castle application is the most likely to ensure the viability of digital terrestrial television.
It will target those viewers who have not been so far attracted by digital TV and will help facilitate the move towards digital switchover.