Football League blame Leeds United legal action for late notice of Boro TV switch

Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino.

Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino.

Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
LEEDS UNITED'S fraught relationship with the Football League has suffered a fresh setback '“ after the governing body blamed the controversial late rescheduling of the home game with Middlesbrough on legal action taken by the club.

Fans of both clubs have reacted furiously to the confirmation that the Elland Road clash, initially scheduled for Saturday, February 13 has been moved to the following Monday (February 15) for coverage on Sky Sports – with under four weeks notice given.

Those affected by the change include over 100 Scandinavian fans who had made travel plans to attend the scheduled game.

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In a statement, the league called the late alteration a “matter of regret”, while insisting that United’s legal challenge to attempt to stop future fixture changes at the end of last month had delayed attempts to select the match for TV coverage earlier.

The statement is unlikely to appease Whites supporters, afforded another blow yesterday when Sam Byram became the latest in a long line of leading players to leave the club in the past four years after completing his move to West Ham.

A league spokesman said: “It is a matter of regret to the Football League that supporters of Leeds United and Middlesbrough have only been informed of the new date for this match at such a late stage.

“Like other matches being broadcast during February, this game was originally selected for transmission by Sky Sports in early December with home clubs asked to make the necessary arrangements at the time.

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“However, as was referenced by Leeds United in its statement of the 29th December, the club has challenged the League ‘through the appropriate legal routes’, which has prevented confirmation of the date of this fixture until now.

“Due to ongoing legal restrictions, the League cannot comment further at this time.”

Both Leeds and Boro are also not commenting on the fixture switch, the 13th time that United have been chosen for television coverage this season, with the Teessiders’ tally of televised league games currently standing at seven – with at least another two in store.

But the development is highly likely to exacerbate tensions between the league, Sky Sports and United president Massimo Cellino.

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Late last month, Leeds accused the league of “bringing their own competition into disrepute” with an incensed Cellino only backing down at the 11th hour after threatening to ban Sky from showing the 2-2 draw with Derby County on December 29.

Cellino’s unprecedented stance emanated from what he perceived to be excessive disruption to United’s season by fixture re-scheduling and a disproportionate number of TV games.

His change of mind to provide Sky access – on the afternoon of the Derby game – came only after the league made clear that the club faced being charged with misconduct, something that could have incurred a “full range of sanctions” if the proposed blackout had gone ahead.

Leeds subsequently stated their desire to challenge repeated TV dates “through the appropriate legal routes” with the depth of ill-feeling between the club and league being crystal clear, Cellino’s sentiments being supported by head coach Steve Evans.

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Meanwhile, Byram has completed his switch to West Ham, having opted for a switch to the the London club ahead of Everton for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £3.7m.

The 22-year-old’s move is the most high-profile transfer of the January window so far involving Yorkshire clubs, but a second major move in the space of 24 hours could now follow with Sheffield Wednesday reportedly close to securing a deal to sign Norwich marksman Gary Hooper, the two clubs having agreed a fee last night with a switch possibly being completed later today.

Hooper’s three-month loan at the club ended on Saturday, with the marksman, who turns 28 next week, scoring a brace in the Owls’ 2-0 derby win over Leeds, taking his tally to six goals in as many games.

Norwich are likely to be seeking a fee in the region of £3.5m for Hooper, with Carlos Carvalhal having made no secret of his desire to re-sign him.

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The Owls also remain keen on Blackburn Rovers marksman Jordan Rhodes, with the Lancashire outfit bringing in Sunderland striker Danny Graham yesterday on loan for the rest of the season – which could potentially facilitate a window move for Rhodes, a target of Middlesbrough last summer.

Huddersfield Town have signed Algeria international midfielder Karim Matmour until the end of the season, with an option for a further 12 months.

The 30-year-old French-born attacking midfielder, who can play in a variety of advanced roles, was a free agent after a spell with Kuwaiti club Al-Arabi.

Matmour, who has played for Bundesliga clubs Borussia Moenchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt, is well known to Wagner from his time in Germany.

On Matmour, Wagner said: “it is not normal we would get a player of his quality with no transfer fee.”