Soccer nets nothing in ITV case

Contract did not guarentee payment

LONDON — England’s soccer body Thursday lost its high court battle to recover nearly £200 million ($312 million) from commercial broadcasters Carlton and Granada, owners of collapsed pay TV service ITV Digital.

The court ruled that the two did not have to honor the remaining portion of their failed subsid’s $491 million contract for broadcast rights to the lower division of soccer.

ITV Digital went into administration in April just one year into a three-year broadcast deal with the Football League and owes millions in unpaid fees.

The case hinged on whether the contract guaranteed payment. Granada and Carlton rejected liability for ITV Digital’s debts, arguing that the contract they signed did not include an undertaking to meet its financial commitments

David Burns, chief executive of the Football League, admits that it was a mistake not to ensure that guarantees were in the full contract.

Speaking at the high court, Justice Langley, said: “In my judgment, Carlton and Granada are entitled to the declaration they seek that neither company is liable to the Football League for any sums due under, or damages payable for breach of, the contract. There was no guarantee by either company of ITV Digital’s obligations under that contract.”

Reps from 72 soccer clubs will meet Tuesday to decide whether the Football League should appeal. So far, the case has cost the league $1.7 million in legal fees.

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