Championship clubs could still pursue breakaway from the EFL

Leeds United
Leeds' 3-2 away win at Aston Villa last December was one of the most-watched TV games of the season

Championship clubs may still pursue a breakaway from the English Football League if their deep-seated grievances over the handling of a new TV deal are not immediately addressed.

Former Liverpool and Premier League chief executive Rick Parry was named chairman designate by the EFL on Thursday, with his appointment due to be ratified at a meeting of member clubs on 26 September.

The appointment of 64-year-old will be followed by a new chief executive to replace Shaun Harvey, who left his role at the end of last season.

After the recent turbulence of trying to manage the catastrophic financial situations at Bury and Bolton, EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans had hoped the installation of a new senior executive team would lead to a resetting of the relationship between the organisation and its biggest clubs.

However, it is understood Jevans has been told that is not the case.

Instead, BBC Sport has been told by several sources that a Premier League-style breakaway is possible, such is the strength of feeling over the £595m, five-year TV deal with Sky announced in November.

Whether such a strategy is realistic, given the Premier League has never shown any interest in forming a second tier, is debatable.

However, the mere fact the threat exists underlines the strength of feeling against the EFL.

What happened with the TV deal fallout?

Issues remain about both the manner in which the contract was agreed and the detail within it.

Championship clubs say they were not given any chance to discuss the deal and then, when they demanded Harvey delay an announcement confirming it, they were ignored.

Some clubs feel the five-year contract chronically undervalues the Championship as a product.

It has been claimed that - excluding Premier League matches involving the 'big six' - last season's fixture between Aston Villa and Leeds in December was the most watched domestic league match on Sky. Championship clubs were told the Sunday lunchtime game was watched by 1.25m.

In asking for a delay, the Championship clubs made it known they would be willing to honour financial obligations within the negotiated contract made to counterparts in League One and League Two, who, as a collective, hold the balance of power within the EFL.

They wanted the opportunity to explore other potential TV options.

However, someone with knowledge of how that contract was negotiated told the BBC that sanctioning such a delay was impossible because the outline agreement had been negotiated 12 months previously, at which point there were no alternative offers on the table.

With 25% of Championship clubs changing every year through promotion and relegation, it is felt the competition lacks the stability of the Premier League, putting it at a disadvantage when it comes to centralised negotiation.

Nevertheless, with Premier League clubs getting £3m each time they have a match on TV compared to £75,000 for second-tier clubs, the gulf between the top two leagues is enormous.

What other issues are there?

In the quest to increase revenue, one of the ideas the major clubs had was to live stream matches played outside the Saturday 14:45-17:15 blackout period on their own websites.

Under the new deal, they are allowed to do this. However, the EFL stipulate clubs must charge subscribers a minimum £9.99 for the four-camera production.

Sky have been given access to the same games through their red button service. Apart from eight games over the course of a season that are now shown live on a main channel, these must be one camera productions.

The EFL believe this makes the additional games distinctive and the clubs' own productions better. The clubs counter this by arguing supporters are far less likely to pay for a service they can get for free from Sky, even if the quality is not as good.

A source with knowledge of the contract told the BBC there was ambiguity within it, which left the EFL in no position to counter Sky's desire to show all games to some extent.

The clubs feel the current situation is having a direct impact on the amount of subscribers they can attract, although a source has told the BBC the present contract was meant to test the water for use in future negotiations.

There is also an issue over the composition of the commercial committee that voted the TV deal through and whether four members of it were entitled to vote.

Once he is in place, it will be made clear to Parry these issues must be addressed immediately. If he fails to resolve them, a move as seismic as the one that led to the formation of the Premier League in 1992 will be back on the agenda.

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