Clubs Forced To Withdraw On-line Services

West Ham United and Sunderland have been forced to withdraw a selection of their on-line services due to restrictions imposed by the Football League.

Following 11th-hour negotiations with the Football League in a bid to continue the service, both clubs have been told that they are no longer permitted to broadcast live match commentary and show visual highlights of League games for the rest of the season.

Clubs in the Nationwide Divisions do not own the audio/visual rights for their matches and are not permitted to transmit any of this footage without the consent of the Football League; and the clubs have therefore been forced to withdraw this service to their supporters.

In December 2000, the Football League sold its audio/visual rights to Premium TV and later set up a joint venture company called FLPTV. As part of the sale package to FLPTV, clubs in membership of the Football League at that time received a payment for the sale of their audio/visual rights.

As Sunderland and West Ham United were not in the Football League at this point, they were not party to the original sale package and  did not, therefore receive any payment. 

After several months of negotiation, FLPTV has now demanded that Sunderland and West Ham United each pay a substantial sum (80 per cent of which is taken by the Football League)  for the right to transmit match footage and continue to provide free

commentary on their own websites - or alternatively break their existing contracts with Sky to launch a PTV 'World Service' until the end of the season.

Sunderland and West Ham United currently have media partnerships with Sky, to operate the clubs' websites and online audio/visual services, which preclude them from offering a PTV 'World Service' package.

Scott Duxbury, West Ham United's Company Secretary, said: "Both clubs have worked extremely hard over the past few months to try and ensure that supporters continue to receive match highlights and commentary through the official website. However, given our contractual commitments to Sky we cannot agree to what we believe is an unfair and unreasonable request for a payment to FLPTV.

"It is extremely regrettable that on a match day the impact of withdrawing this service will be felt most significantly by our supporters who live outside of the London area who are unable to have access to local radio commentary.  

"We will obviously continue to offer our text based match commentary on the official website and all supporters will also be able to receive live commentary and/or updates by listening to HammersLine on 0906 586 1966 or tuning into Capital Gold. 

"We would like to apologise to our supporters for the inconvenience, but FLPTV despite our best efforts have forced the Club into the removal of a valuable service for its supporters."

The clubs will continue to offer selected services in the video lounge, including daily news and a video archive, with footage from league games since the start of the Premiership. They will also compensate existing subscribers by offering a free subscription to Sky Scape, a Sky news, sports and entertainment video package or pro rata refund.