CHARLES SALE: Cup looking half full for FA accountants

By Charles Sale for the Daily Mail

Sports subscription channel ESPN are finally showing interest in acquiring FA Cup content, which has given the FA hope of at least attracting a realistic price for the rights returned to them when the demise of Setanta left a £70million hole in their accounts.

Since Setanta went under in June, only the BBC had been in talks with the FA until ESPN's late arrival at the negotiating table.

And the BBC's derisory offer led the FA to do an internet deal for the first and second rounds of the FA Cup.

Staines Town's Ali Chaaban scores from the penalty spot against Millwall

Trapped on the web: Ali Chaaban scores for Staines Town, whose FA Cup second round replay with Millwall will be streamed live on the internet on December 9

But ESPN, whose new subscription numbers are understood to be at 600,000, have realised they need extra football next season to attract fresh viewers when their live Premier League match contract goes down to one package.

And the new competition from super-careful buyers ESPN might even force the Beeb to up their bid.

FA chief executive Ian Watmore is expected to put the two rival offers to an FA board meeting today and if the monies are enough to fill half the Setanta hole, a deal will be done.

However, it's understood the current ESPN offer is for the next two seasons, leaving the FA muddling through this Cup campaign with co-partners ITV getting more games and the other scheduled TV slots going to the internet.

John Terry took the trouble to phone Sports Agenda himself following calls made to his agent about the wisdom of the England captain attaching himself to one national newspaper, making it clear that he would only be commenting on Chelsea issues.

However, Terry's debut column last Saturday was all about England and the World Cup draw. When the FA next parade Captain JT at a press conference, why should anyone believe a word he says?


Negotiations this week between the BBC and ITV over their division of World Cup matches will be led by old friends Phil Bernie and Niall Sloane, who worked together for 20 years at the Beeb before the latter defected to the commercial network this year.

The deadlock over who screens what took three months to break before the last World Cup, when there were more marquee games in the group stage.

This time the choices are expected to be settled within the week with cash-strapped ITV likely to go all out to secure England's group matches against USA and Algeria - to bank advertising from guaranteed peak-time matches - and give the BBC the third group game with Slovenia and the last-16 blockbuster.


Surface tension at HQ

England coach Fabio Capello

Pitch battle: Fabio Capello has concerns over the quality of England's training facilities at their World Cup HQ, the Royal Bafokeng sports campus

There is much sensitivity at England's prospective World Cup headquarters at the Royal Bafokeng sports campus over Fabio Capello's low opinion of their training pitches.

They are claimed to be replicas of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium surface where England play their first match against the USA.

Operations director Sam Hodson, who had been trumpeting how the complex was unique in offering the same surface as a World Cup stadium, yesterday referred all calls to spokesperson Martin Bekker, who rather than comment put the phone down.

Meanwhile, the FA's own Wembley consultants from the Sports Turf Institute have been over to Bafokeng to help training pitch preparations.


The England 2018 World Cup campaign, back on track thanks to David Beckham's trip to Cape Town, were debating a move that would have kicked their bid into touch for good.

There was talk of bringing in Tony Blair's spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who showed on the hapless Lions tour of New Zealand why he would have been the worst possible appointment.


FIFA ExCo member Franz Beckenbauer's closeness to the Australia World Cup campaign has come to the notice of bidding countries, including England, who were expecting the Kaiser to be at least backing one of the European bids.

Australia have a gentlemen's agreement of 2018 help from the German Football Federation in return for not bidding for the 2011 women's World Cup - while their 2018-2022 bid book is being prepared by Andreas Abold, who employs Beckenbauer's closest aide Fedor Radmann.

Australia bid chief executive Bill Buckley said: 'We are receiving a lot of co-operation from the Germans and it's up to Franz whom he votes for.'

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