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EFL to review rights deals processes – report

The English Football League will review the processes by which it negotiates broadcast deals after an independent report questioned the way it extended its contract with pay-television broadcaster Sky.

The EFL appointed independent consultants Harbottle & Lewis to look into how the new five-season deal, which runs from 2019-20 to 2023-24, was reached, with The Times newspaper obtaining a copy of a confidential letter sent to club chairmen.

The newspaper said the Harbottle & Lewis report questions whether four members of the EFL commercial committee that voted on the deal were eligible to vote. Three voted in favour of the agreement, which prevented Championship clubs from blocking it. The report states: “There is clearly a great deal of confusion as to the composition of the commercial committee and which members have the right to vote.”

The report also questions whether the EFL should have amended its statutes in 2014 to clarify which members were eligible to vote. In the letter to clubs, EFL executive chairman, Debbie Jevans, admitted there was a need to rebuild trust between the League and the clubs, adding that the report will lead to the EFL board reviewing how broadcast agreements are reached, as well as the composition of its commercial committee.

The review will also assess the impact of Sky’s decision to show multiple Championship matches on a given matchday via the red button. Several clubs have been concerned over how this affects their in-house streaming platforms, some of which have required significant investment.

The EFL’s decision to approve the Sky deal caused deep divisions within its membership. Clubs with large fanbases such as Leeds United, Aston Villa and Derby County were furious with the EFL board for signing the deal.

In November, Sky was forced to defend its extended rights deal with the EFL, which operates the three leagues below the Premier League, in the face of opposition from a number of leading Championship clubs.

The clubs believed the EFL undervalued the rights and restricted clubs’ ability to sell their own digital subscription packages. They also believed the five-season term was too long. The new deal represents an increase of about 35 per cent on the league’s previous agreement with Sky, which was a three-plus-one season deal. It ran from 2015-16 to 2017-18, and was extended to include 2018-19.