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Conte culpable in uneven season


Business briefing

Overseas Premiership TV rights up for grabs

The Premier League this week closed bids for its coveted overseas television rights, with analysts predicting the deal to be worth in excess of £200million.

Three years ago the league brokered a deal worth £178million with a consortium comprising sports rights agencies TWI, Octagon CSI, Sport+ as well as Rupert Murdoch's media group, News Corporation.

These four companies split the package by region, with each taking responsibility for distributing the rights to broadcasters in different territories from Africa to the Americas.

However, this time around the league is prepared to deal directly with broadcasters, rather than effectively employing sports agencies to sell on - at a profit - Premiership coverage on their behalf.

The rights on offer will cover a three-year period beginning next season and will run alongside the domestic deal brokered last year with the News Corp-controlled, pay-television giant, British Sky Broadcasting which is worth just over £1billion.

In a significant departure the overseas package being offered by the league contains all 380 matches per season for live broadcast - the current deal offers around 180 games - in an effort to ensure that despite the deflates sports rights market the league rakes in as much income as possible.

With the bidding process now closed the league will begin the negotiation phase. A deal is expected to be sealed by the end of February.

Owen to split from SFX

Michael Owen is set to split with his SFX when his contract expires in July and instead turn to his father to handle his affairs.

The split appears to be a result of comments from SFX chief executive Jon Holmes to which Owen has taken exception to.

The company's chief executive Jon Holmes suggested the striker could quit Anfield if they fail to achieve a Champions League place this season.

Owen's departure is a significant blow to SFX who last year split with the most marketable man in soccer, David Beckham. Like Owen the England captain had a deal with SFX until summer 2004 but opted to pay the agency a reported £2million to sever ties early.

Liverpool's £80m stadium plan in doubt

Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, this week told the club's AGM that he would 'pull the plug' on a plans to construct a new £80million stadium if costs began to spiral out of control.

Parry also revealed that Liverpool saw a 4 per cent increase turnover to almost £102.5million and pre-tax profits of £3.6million.

Leeds hopeful of rescue deal

The uncertainty surrounding Leeds United's future could be resolved next week following reports that billionaire retail entrepreneur Philip Green is close to agreeing a takeover of the Elland Road club.

Crippled by debts of £80 million Leeds negotiated breathing space to try and broker a rescue deal to stave off administration, but that period expires on January 19 when the club must recommence repayments to bondholders.

Leeds main problems centre on £60million borrowed against 25 years of season-ticket sales and a debt of £21million owed to a finance company for the hire purchase of senior players.

Green is expected to pay about £40 million to lenders to wipe out the debt.

Green's expected involvement is good news for Leeds as mooted bids from Bahrain's Sheikh Mubarak al-Khalifa and former club chairman Professor John McKenzie are seemingly dead in the water.

Wenger backs FIFA's Dual nationality ruling

Arsene Wenger has lent his support to FIFA's ruling on dual-nationality. The Arsenal manager believes the decision, which amends existing rules to allow players to represent one country at junior level and another in senior competitions, will be of benefit to African football.

'I agree with the new rules. In fairness to African countries, in the past, it has always been the other way around', Wenger told Soccer Investor.

'For example France has many former colonies and if there was a good player in one of them he would get called up for the French [youth] teams to make sure he could never go back and play for the colony.

'Young players are never going to turn down the chance to play at that level for France, but if they do not progress they can now change countries which they never could under the old rules.

'I think it is right they have now changed because players will be allowed to change their mind on decisions they made when they were only young.'

Adu, 14, to be best paid MLS player in 2004

Freddy Adu, the promising 14-year-old striker, will be the highest paid player in US soccer this year according to newly-formed Major League Soccer Players Union.

The MLSPU has released salary details for every MLS player for 2004, although performance bonuses will remain undisclosed.

Despite approaches from a host of top European team Ghanaian-born Adu inked a six-year deal with MLS club DC united.

Soccer Investor reports that although Adu's base salary is listed as $300,000, it is expected that the figure will swell to $500,000 thanks to bonuses and allowances.

On base salary alone Adu is fifth behind Kansas City Wizard's striker Josh Wolff, the highest earner with a salary of $350,000. Sixteen players are guaranteed salaries of over $200,000, while eight players including Carlos Ruiz, 2002's MVP, will earn less than $50,000.

Hertha players offer to pay for fans

Players at Bundesliga strugglers Hertha Berlin have reportedly taken the unusual step of offering to pay for supporters' ticket and travel costs to away games until the end of the season by way of compensation for their continuing poor form.

The daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung claims that senior players proposed to the squad that they put up around Euros1million ($1.27 million) to pay for fans to attend the club's remaining eight away games of the season.

New Div 1 director aims to close cash gap

Stewart Regan, the newly-appointed director of English soccer's First Division, has described as 'damaging' the financial gap between English football's second tier and the Premiership.

Regan, currently director of strategic planning at Coors Brewers, will take up the post, created as part of a restructuring of the Football League's management, on March 1.

Having identified the financial health of Division One clubs as his main priority Regan said: `Essentially, I see myself as representing the views of Division One clubs within the league's executive management structure.

`I will also be seeking to develop the profile of Division One competition in order to attract new supporters, as well as identifying new sources of revenue and investment, so that clubs can begin to close the damaging financial gap that exists between Division One and the Premier League.'

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