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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
ITV Digital crisis: Who is to blame?
The Football League's two leading executives resign over the ITV Digital fiasco which has left some clubs facing financial ruin.
Who do you blame for football's financial crisis?
This debate is now closed.
Chairman Keith Harris and chief executive David Burns both announced they were quitting on Tuesday.
The decision was widely predicted after a court ruling that Carlton and Granada were not liable to pay the remaining two years of ITV Digital's three-year contract with the League worth a total of £315m.
Several Nationwide League clubs could face financial ruin, and many blame the Football League for failing to secure guarantees from Carlton and Granada once the contracts were written.
Who do you hold responsible for the ITV Digital fiasco?
It is totally the League's fault. They had to admit at the trial that no-one representing the Football League even suggested, let alone requested, that the contract should include a guarantee from Carlton or Granada. It is a bit late to only ask for a guarantee once ON Digital are going bust.
If the clubs really are in financial difficulties, why did they waste their money on a case which, now the facts have emerged, they had no chance at all of winning? In the real world, companies selling rights for £315m to a new company would try to protect their income in case the other side couldn't pay.
I blame footballers' agents. They artificially raise wages, and have been responsible for vast sums of money from football simply disappearing (into their pockets). It is the agents who are ripping the fans off. And they are still trying to do it, which means that a lot of good footballers are currently out of a job.
The representatives of the two TV companies clearly made an error of judgement in offering so much for TV rights. Based on their gross mismanagement (by bidding well over the odds) they should be made to go some way, or all of the way, to making up the shortfall suffered by the clubs.
If not they will be made scapegoats when some of the not so well off clubs start going into receivership and liquidation.
The clubs are partly to blame as they got very greedy.
However, ITV were prepared to pay the price. Therefore they should PAY UP.
The only people to blame are the executives of the Football League. Who in their right mind enters into a contract with a recently formmed company, without seeking written guarantees in the contract saying that, should ITV Digital fail to meet the payments, the holding company will?
Standard practice in any business deal.To add salt into the wounds of the League clubs, those responsible are still in a job. How do the hundreds of footballers still looking for a contract feel about that?
ITV Digital were negotiating a reduction in their payments. The League did not listen. When the company you rely on for income is losing money, you have to take that into consideration. And tighen your pockets or you get zero.
With no competition for TV rights Bskyb will reduce their payments next time round.
The league clubs are responsible for their own financial problems.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for the clubs. They must have realised that ITV Digital were overpaying for TV rights for the Nationwide League because the size of the other, more realistic offers they were getting.
They signed a dodgy contract with a TV company without a properly established viewer base, and spent the money before they got it - unfortunately they believed their own hype. If this is the beginning of the end of the ridiculous sums of money floating around in football, it won't be a bad thing.
People seem to forget why ITV Digital went out of business; because so called football fans didn't care enough about football to buy ITV Digital to watch the game they treasure so much. If all the fans who complain that their club may go out of business had signed up to ITV digital there wouldn't be this mess!
I know who is not to blame - the fans! And who will ultimately suffer? Us fans! The Football League were naive in their contract negotiations with ITV Digital, but Granada and Carlton would have shared in the profits if the deal had been a success. They have a duty to the fans of the clubs to pay compensation.
I also think the chairmen of some clubs did over-budget when it came to some players' contracts, thereby not helping themselves. Let's just hope the Football League and club chairman have learnt a valuable lesson, and this catastrophe is never repeated.
The blame lies with the game itself. The system cannot support the amount of teams that it has at present, and something has to give. It is about time that a team with severe financial difficulties is terminated - only then will football get its act together and run its affairs properly.
It's time management within the league accepted this situation was of their own making. They failed to notice a vital clause was missing from the signed contract and they refused to negotiate when ITV Digital announced they were in danger of going under.
The new contract with Sky works out at less money per season and won't start paying until this time next year. How will some of the clubs manage this coming year, if they were desperate for the ITV Digital money due to them this August?
Everything happens for a reason, so perhaps this was a wake up call for all the Premiership clubs who rely heavily on TV revenues. Don't spend money you don't yet have.
Whilst company law may seem very strange sometimes I think the blame really lies with the Football League. The basis of any decent contract is the customer's ability to pay (in this case ITV Digital) and anybody who knew anything about football could see that the figures just didn't add up.
It was destined to be a failure right from the start. Everybody knew it seems except the Football League.
ITV Digital were stupid to bid what they did, and the Football League were even more stupid not to insist on legally enforceable cross guarantees from Carlton and Granada. So the court's decision is legally correct, but Carlton's and Granada's defence is morally wrong.
There are no winners with this situation. The clubs, desperate for money, started spending before they had the money and ITV digital were far too bullish in their estimations.
Let's hope no-one goes bust over this, and let's also hope people learn from it.
The Football League leadership are wholly to blame. It should be remembered that ITV Digital was a speculative venture founded on an unproven new-technology - even more reason that the League should have been cautious. Instead, they acted naively and without due caution, and went on to sign a deeply flawed contract with ITV Digital.
The current Football League leadership seem unable to fully accept their responsibility and take the necessary and appropriate radical actions. For example, their next move has been to sell, in desperation, the TV rights to Sky for an absolute song. Sadly, this is a deal that will surely mean bankruptcy for many League Clubs.
It is not fair either to blame individual clubs for the high wages they play their players - after all, it's an open market and you get what you pay for. And as the saying goes, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
I agree 100% with what Richard Dunbar (below) has said. Clegg needs to stand up and be accountable for the irreparable damage he has caused, and not hide behind the cloak of the Football League.
It's high time that these fat cat directors are named and shamed followed by sacking. Perhaps then somebody capable of doing the job will be brought in.
Although people may say that Granada and Carlton have a moral obligation to pay the outstanding money, it would be both naive and foolish to expect these organisations to do so.
The directors of these companies are obligated under law to protect the interests of their shareholders, and you would be hard-pushed to make a case that paying over the unpaid millions was in the interest of these shareholders.
If the Football League had negotiated the contract properly to include such guarantees then these arguments over moral obligations would be irrelevant and the clubs of the Football League would be continuing to receive the funds under the contract.
The responsibility for this lies with those who negotiated the contract on behalf of the Football League.
ITV are responsible as they agreed to pay the large amounts for TV rights. You can't blame the league for spending money that they believed was theirs to spend.
Neither side comes out of this with any credit. ITV Digital were stupid to think they were doing good business by offering such a massive amount of money for Nationwide League football. And the clubs were naive to assume that it would work out, and start spending the money before they'd even got it.
Coming from Gillingham, I'm not surprised by Mr Scally's comments. Personally, I think that Carlton and Granada's actions are utterly despicable, as I'm sure that they would not have refused to accept any profits should ITV Digital have made them.
However, ultimately the blame has to rest with whoever agreed to sign a contract that did not make the parent companies liable against the inability of the subsidiary company to pay the money. I'm sorry Paul, but you really need to look to who it was that agreed that one.
Who's to blame? ITV digital for offering a stupid amount, the league for signing the contract without thinking, and the league chairmen for spending money they didn't yet have. Although Granada and Carlton backed ITV digital, the right result was achieved - maybe not morally right but legally.
There's no point blaming the chairmen of the clubs, as all they did was spend within their budgets. They had no reason to expect the funds to dry up - who was going to predict the total failure of ITV digital?
Maybe their spending was too excessive, but as long as they could afford it, all they did was show ambition. It seems pretty clear to me that Carlton and Granada have put a very large nail in the coffin of lower league football. They should be ashamed of themselves.
They are both as bad as one another - ITV Digital were stupid to think that the public would be that interested in lower league football, and the football league were too greedy to accept any of the sensible offers from ITV Digital's competitors.
If you blame anyone for the dire situation our clubs face I would start with the chairmen, who are willing to pay ridiculous wages or meet demands from average players.
Then there's the players themselves, who now have to take what they can. Not to mention the players' agents who hold the clubs to ransom just so they can get a few extra quid in their pockets.
Regardless of whether the court ruled in favour of Carlton and Granada, it is clear that the ITV companies must take responsibility for ITV Digital dishonouring their agreements.
I believe that the FA should show solidarity with the league and deny ITV access to Premiership highlights. ITV's "Blind Date" style football coverage is dire anyway.
The only people to blame are the League themselves. They entered into a poorly designed and weak contract with ITV Digital, which did not hold the parent companies liable for any failure. Scally should turn his attention to the League's lawyers.
I believe without any doubt that top executive of the Football League, Mr Niall Clegg, is to blame for this. He has tried to defend decisions made by the league for some time, which people are finding hard to believe. I think it's time for a change in management at the League headquarters.
In business, the only document worth anything is the one that is signed - any discussions or negotiations prior to that are not binding. So who is to blame? Whoever signed the contract without the vital clause, along with those who failed to notice that someone smart at ITV Digital had not included it.
It's the clubs' fault. They spent the money before they got it - something my dad told me not to do when I was 12 years old. And have we not heard of a contingency plan? The clubs have tried to milk this situation to gain some compensation and it's backfired - tough!
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