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15/04/2002

ITV Digital administrators hit out at league bosses

Having just been awarded an extra seven days in which to turn ITV Digital around, administrators Deloitte & Touche launched a withering attack on the Nationwide League claiming league chiefs were intent on "scoring a spectacular own goal".
A person close to the administrators broke ranks after the firm became the focus of what was described as "a campaign of negative publicity".
The source said the ailing digital company was the only entity which was liable to compensate clubs under the terms of the broadcast contract. Recent statements from the Nationwide League, said the source, were ultimately damaging the administrator's ability to make an equitable offer.
"The Football League is out of control with their fingers on the self-destruct button and they are about to score a spectacular own goal. They (the Nationwide League clubs) are trying to hurt Carlton and Granada but they are only hurting ITV Digital - which is the only company that can save them," the insider said.
This latest outburst came after league chief executive David Burns, during an interview for Radio 4, talked of the possibility of accepting a final payment of £100 million. However, it has been reported that ITV Digital would offer only £74 million – or £105 million less than the contracted amount. Negotiators for ITV Digital had made a £60 million offer on Friday April 12, but that was dismissed out of hand by the league as "derisory".
In a statement that was released after the seven-day extension order had been granted, Deloitte & Touche blamed the continued impasse on league bosses, without directly naming them.
"The restructuring (of ITV Digital) has been hampered by the unauthorised disclosure of private and confidential discussions and the campaign of negative publicity which has continued this morning and is severely undermining the administration process. This may have impacted on our ability to successfully restructure the business," the statement read.
Deloitte & Touche concluded the statement with a not-so-veiled threat to the Nationwide League on what the consequences will be if negotiations fail over the next seven days.
"Should the Football League reject the proposals, or we conclude that the ongoing recriminations have undermined our ability to achieve the business plan, we will be left with no alternative than to implement the sales of the business and the assets."
Deloitte & Touche were appointed by the high court as administrators for the company on March 27. Joint owners Granada and Carlton made a final cash injection of £20 million into the debt-laden business before bailing out, but since administration, the company – which has 1.2 million subscribers – has been haemorrhaging over £1 million a day.
ITV Digital, www.itv-digital.co.uk
(GMcG)
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