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Sky answers EFL deal critics

UK pay-television broadcaster Sky has defended its extended rights deal with the English Football League in the face of opposition from a number of leading Championship clubs, claiming no other media company was prepared to make the kind of commitment it has shown the competition.

The EFL’s decision to approve a five-season, £595m (€669m/$765m) deal with Sky last week has caused deep divisions within its membership. Clubs with large fanbases such as Leeds United, Aston Villa and Derby County are furious with the EFL board for signing the deal.

They believe the EFL – which organises the three leagues below the Premier League – has undervalued the rights and restricted clubs’ ability to sell their own digital subscription packages. They also believe the five-season term is too long.

The new deal represents an increase of about 35 per cent on the league’s current deal 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. The new deal will run from 2019-20 to 2023-24.

All 24 Championship clubs are expected to meet this week to discuss their next move. Amid the ongoing disquiet, Sky has moved to remind the clubs of its long-term backing of the EFL. Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, told UK newspaper the Telegraph: “Nobody has supported the EFL more than Sky. Over two decades we have continually invested through every twist and turn for the benefit of the league.

“We thoroughly assess the value of rights, and increased them by a third from the previous deal – no one else was willing to make this sort of commitment.”

He pointed to the fact Sky has invested over £1bn in the EFL, adding that the length of the new deal is an advantage to the League as it guarantees rights income of £119m per season until 2024.

Francis added: “Our commitment, and this signed deal, will underpin the league for years ahead. The fact that the price we paid is substantially higher, when sports rights are generally receding, reflects the sustained commitment we have made to the EFL.”