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Setanta struggling to make football rights payments 3 May 2009

The company, which has 1.2m customers and broadcasts Premier League and England international football, faces an uncertain future unless it can raise up to £100m this month from shareholders including private-equity firms Doughty Hanson and Balderton Capital.

The troubled Irish satellite TV company was late with a £10m payment to the FA in March and the FA is reportedly nervous about receiving the instalment due next month.  The company is racing to find funding for the payment of £35m due on May 15. Some rights partners, including IPL cricket and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, are said to be broadly supportive of its moves to reduce payments.

It is understood that Setanta are seeking to defer the payment, but it is unclear whether they could afford to if negotiations fail to reach an agreement.

Deloitte have been brought in to advise alongside investment bank Close Brothers.  It is understood that Deloitte would be appointed administrators if negotiations fail. 
Setanta is understood to have agreements in principle from sports bodies including the PGA golf tour that could let it cut up to £20m from the estimated £120m a year it will spends on rights from 2010.

If the deal, which gives Setanta shared broadcasting rights to England internationals and the FA Cup, were to collapse, it would be reminiscent of the Football League's ITV Digital fiasco in 2002.  Unlike the Football League's deal with ITV Digital, the FA ensured that the majority of the money due from Setanta was paid up front this year.

But any problems with one of their chosen broadcasters would still be a major embarrassment after the FA favoured Setanta and ITV ahead of established partners Sky and the BBC.
In the event of the existing deal collapsing, it is likely that the England internationals and FA Cup matches awarded to Setanta would be offered to ITV or resold to Sky.

As well as the concerns over Setanta's ability to meet payments to the FA, they are negotiating to delay the £60m due this month under their separate £392m Premier League deal.
While both the Premier League and the FA are willing to co-operate with Setanta, they would agree only to restaged payments rather than a reduction.

 

 

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