LEEDS UNITED last night accused the Football League of “bringing their own competition into disrepute” after Massimo Cellino backed down in the latest instalment of his bitter row with Sky Sports.
The Italian had vowed to prevent the broadcaster screening the Championship fixture with Derby County. Cellino took the unprecedented stance over what he perceives to be excessive disruption to United’s season caused by the rescheduling of fixtures shown live by Sky.
Security staff had been ordered to deny Sky staff entry to Elland Road before the Leeds president performed a dramatic U-turn yesterday afternoon. Live coverage went ahead as planned.
Cellino’s change of mind came 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 threatened blackout had gone ahead.
Chief executive Shaun Harvey visited Elland Road yesterday in an attempt to break the deadlock.
Sky, who have a four-year deal to broadcast the Football League, were belatedly granted access, but the club have made clear their continuing resentment towards both the broadcaster and the governing body.
A club spokesman said: “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. Leeds United season ticket holders have had enough of these fixture changes, the players and staff have had enough, and Leeds United 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 by allowing Sky to unfairly disrupt Leeds United for their own commercial purposes.
“Recent good results have been achieved despite the alterations to the fixture list, but at great cost to the players’ fitness and a substantial injury list. The festive plans of supporters have also been entirely ruined by Sky’s live TV selections.
“The League, despite the club having challenged them through the appropriate legal routes, continue to try and alter our schedule by insisting fixtures are changed to suit Sky, including Brighton away from a Saturday to a Monday in February.”
Sky pay around £100,000 to screen each Championship match, but Cellino claims this does not cover the loss of income from lower attendances and reduced corporate revenue.