Sky Sports will go ahead with their plan to televise tonight’s game between Leeds United and Derby County after Massimo Cellino dramatically withdrew his threat to ban the broadcaster from Elland Road.
Cellino backed down and allowed employees from Sky to enter the stadium around 3pm this afternoon, 24 hours after moving to shut the broadcaster out of the ground.
The Italian took the unprecedented step of ordering security staff to deny Sky’s employees access amid a bitter dispute between United and the Football League over fixture disruption caused by television scheduling.
His actions drew a terse warning from the Football League that Leeds would be charged with misconduct and face “a range of sanctions” if he enforced the black-out.
Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey - the former Leeds CEO - was present outside Elland Road as the Football League tried to resolve the dispute in time for Sky to cover this evening’s Championship match.
In a statement, United said they had “reluctantly” permitted Sky to broadcast the game but made clear their on-going frustration with repeated disruption to their fixture list.
“The Football League regulations are supposed to be there to protect the integrity of the sporting competition, not to be used as a stick to beat the club on behalf of Sky,” the club’s statement read.
“Leeds United season ticket holders have had enough of these fixture changes, the players and staff have had enough, and Leeds United Football Club has had enough.
“It is to be noted that the League threaten a disrepute charge against the club. It is the League who are bringing their own competition into disrepute by unfairly prejudicing Leeds (and certain other clubs) by allowing Sky to unfairly disrupt Leeds United for their own commercial purposes.”
Earlier today, a Football League spokesman said: “Under Football League regulations, clubs are required to provide access to the League’s broadcasting partners for the purpose of setting up and filming any matches that are selected for transmission.
“Failure to do so will lead to a club being charged with misconduct with the matter being referred to an independent Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC).
“The FDC has a full range of sanctions at its disposal.”
Cellino has been at odds with Sky and the Football League for much of this season, owing to Sky’s decision to televise 11 of United’s fixtures since the start of the campaign in August.
The 59-year-old is currently in Miami having flown out of England before Christmas but he instructed staff to block Sky’s attempts to cover tonight’s clash before leaving for America.
Staff from Sky were initially stopped from entering Elland Road on Monday after arriving in Leeds to begin setting up and were forced to wait outside the ground again today until Cellino relented little over four hours before kick-off.
A Football League spokesman said: “Sky Sports personnel have now been granted access to Elland Road and this evening’s match between Leeds United and Derby County will be broadcast as scheduled.”