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Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 11:48 GMT

Business: The Company File

BSkyB bid for Man Utd 'kicked out'

Manchester United is the richest club in football

BSkyB's takeover bid for Manchester United has reportedly been turned down by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC).

BBC Sports Correspondent Paul Newman: "Shareholders are warning against early celebrations"
The Daily Telegraph newspaper quotes sources close to the Department of Trade and Industry as saying that the MMC had found that the satellite broadcaster's £625m agreed takeover bid was not in the public interest.

According to the paper, the MMC questioned undertakings that BSkyB's ownership of the Premiership football club would not give it an unfair advantage when negotiating broadcasting rights to matches.

Murdoch's big match
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers is expected to decide by the middle of next month whether or not to accept the MMC's recommendation.

The DTI declined to say what recommendation it had received from the MMC.

"We do not comment on unpublished reports from the MMC," said a spokesman.

"They filed their report to the Secretary of State on the 12th (of March). Mr Byers will publish the report as soon as practicable."

[ image: Rupert Murdoch: Controls rights to Premiership]
Rupert Murdoch: Controls rights to Premiership
BSkyB, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, already has the exclusive rights to the live screenings of English Premiership football until 2001.

Last month the UK's commercial television regulator, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), expressed reservations about the proposed takeover.

Responding to newspaper reports that it had urged the MMC to block the takeover, the ITC said any such deal would need to be carefully investigated "to ensure that there will be effective competition".

The proposed takeover has produced widespread opposition among fans and small shareholders of Manchester United - the richest club in football - and from other, smaller clubs.

Floodgates open

They fear that the deal will lead to a reduction in the revenues received by smaller clubs, and ultimately a European super-league of top clubs that can only be viewed on a pay-per-view basis.

President of 'Supporters United Against Murdoch' Michael Crick: "This rumour has a lot of authority"
Sports Minister Tony Banks and Football Taskforce head David Mellor are among those who have expressed reservations about the deal.

If the Manchester United bid does goes through, it looks set to open the floodgates for the ownership of other football clubs by broadcasters.

Newcastle United has already received a bid from cable operator NTL, while until recently Arsenal was in talks with television broadcaster Carlton.

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