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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Football League sues ITV Digital owners
David Burns, chief executive, The Football League
David Burns wants the League's 72 teams to be paid
The Football League has launched legal action against the owners of failed broadcaster ITV Digital over 178.5m owed to clubs in TV rights payments.

The League has taken its fight to claim the cash from ITV Digital backers Carlton and Granada to the High Court.

The Football League has made it abundantly clear that it will, if necessary, use all options to pursue Carlton and Granada

David Burns
Football League
League chiefs also said they were preparing a separate 500m damages claim against the ITV network, which they allege acted with ITV Digital to "exploit the League's media rights".

The salvo had been widely expected after ITV Digital was last month placed into administration, owing the League two year's worth of TV rights payments.

But both sides in the case said they were "confident" of victory in the case.

"Leading counsel has advised that the League has a strong case," League chief executive David Burns said

A Granada spokesman said: "We have robust legal advice that we have no liability for the Football League contract.

"We will defend the claim vigorously."

Dash for 'justice'

The League, which represents the 72 clubs in England's first, second and third divisions, claims that Carlton and Granada, as ITV Digital shareholders, are responsible for guaranteeing the payments.

"From the outset, the League has made it abundantly clear that it will, if necessary, use all options to pursue Carlton and Granada for monies outstanding from our broadcasting agreement," Mr Burns said.

The League urged the High Court to process the case urgently given the crisis the cash squeeze is causing to clubs, about 30 of which may now be tipped into receivership themselves, according to one report.

"An application has been made for an early hearing date, due to the severe financial crisis facing the League and its clubs," the League said.

Buyers' interest

ITV Digital ceased its pay-TV operations earlier this month as administrators Deloitte & Touche prepared the broadcaster for liquidation.

Administrators, after failing to find a buyer willing to take on ITV Digital outright, are now seeking to sell the broadcaster piecemeal.

"We have received a number of offers for various parts of ITV Digital," a Deloitte & Touche spokeswoman said, refusing to give further details.

Carlton shares closed 9p lower at 263.5p in London on Tuesday, while Granada shares ended unchanged at 134.25p.

The BBC's George Eykyn
"It seems that this row will be settled in the courts"
Chief Executive, Football League, David Burns
"We are left with no option"
The BBC's James Pearce
"Carlton and Granada are claiming that they are not responsible"
See also:

08 May 02 | TV and Radio
Free way of stopping Sky
08 May 02 | UK Politics
Media ownership laws to be relaxed
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