Soccer kicks digital

ITV platform failure draws $250 million suit

LONDON — The continuing saga of doomed digital pay TV platform ITV Digital, which stopped broadcasting two weeks ago, took another turn Tuesday when English soccer bosses launched a $250 million lawsuit against the platform’s owners, Granada and Carlton.

The English Football League, which is owed money for the rights to air soccer matches, also repeated its vow to seek more than $700 million in damages once the service goes into liquidation.

League CEO David Burns said: “The Football League has sought to negotiate with Charles Allen and Michael Green (who run Granada and Carlton, respectively) but they have refused to meet with us and, in view of their unwillingness to enter into a meaningful business discussion, we are now focused on the legal process.

‘Strong case’

“Leading counsel has advised that the league has a strong case on the merits, and we remain confident of success.”

Recent reports that the two sides were close to agreeing on a $140 million deal for unpaid rights to matches have been discounted and a court hearing, due this fall, looks inevitable.

Tuesday’s writ is a response to a legal action launched by Granada and Carlton earlier this year, when they asked the court to rule they were not liable for ITV Digital’s debt because there are no parent-company guarantees in the original $441 million agreement.

But the league claimed that, as the sole shareholders in ITV Digital, Granada and Carlton have a moral obligation to pay the money. If not, up to 30 soccer clubs could go bust, the league said.

ITV Digital was put into administration in April after Granada and Carlton had invested more than $1.1 billion in the venture, launched in 1998.