EFL set to review TV rights sales process after dissent over Sky deal
The English Football League, the body which oversees the three divisions below the country’s Premier League, is to re-evaluate its process for negotiating media rights deals after grievances from some leading clubs over the renewal of its agreement with pay-television operator Sky.
Opposition from a group of teams in the EFL’s top-tier Championship to the five-year, £595-million ($749-million) contract is thought to have contributed to former chief executive Shaun Harvey’s decision to step down at the end of the 2018-19 season.
The EFL said in March that it would be reviewing its governance structures amid the fallout from the dispute, and the findings of an independent report by law firm Harbottle and Lewis, seen by the UK’s Times newspaper, have questioned whether four members of the commercial committee that voted for the deal were eligible to do so.
Three of the four members in question voted in favour of the agreement, which comes into effect for the 2019-20 season.
The report, findings of which were included in a letter sent to club chairmen, stated: “There is clearly a great deal of confusion as to the composition of the commercial committee and which members have the right to vote.”
It also queried whether the EFL should have amended its regulations in 2014 to clarify which members could actually vote.
Debbie Jevans, the executive chairman of the EFL, is reported to have acknowledged in the letter that there was a need to rebuild trust with the clubs, and that, in the wake of the report, the board will review how decisions on TV rights are taken, the composition of the commercial committee, and potential conflicts of interest of club members who are on both the board and the commercial committee.
The EFL board finally approved the Sky deal last November, only for a rebel group of Championship clubs to issue a statement saying they were “gravely concerned” over the decision and were determined “to ensure the matter is not left there.”
Some clubs argued that, while they had no issues with Sky's coverage of the league, the deal undervalued their rights and an expanded digital TV and streaming offering represented a threat to attendances.
It is understood that the EFL’s review will look at the impact of the decision to allow Sky to show live midweek Championship matches via its red button service, when many clubs had invested in iFollow, the league's own streaming platform.
The service was made available in the UK last season, having previously been restricted to the international market, but does not show Saturday afternoon games domestically because of the continuing blackout rule that applies between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on that day of the week.
Following Harvey's exit, Jevans is leading the search for a new EFL chief executive, and acting as executive chairman until one is found.