Live television coverage of England’s World Cup qualifier in Podgorica could be affected by a dispute between the agency that sold the rights to the match to ITV and the Montenegro Football Association. Unless the wrangle is resolved by kick-off, it could lead to ITV’s team and their cameras being locked out of the stadium.
The match, due to be broadcast by ITV in a primetime slot next Tuesday, is expected to go a long way to deciding whether Roy Hodgson’s injury-hit team qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But, as things stand, ITV is believed to be caught in the middle of a bitter dispute between the Montenegro FA and Kentaro, the global rights and events agency that counts the football agent Jerome Anderson and former France international Emmanuel Petit among its advisers.
As with all overseas matches, the rights to the game are not the property of the English FA but are in the gift of the host to sell. Rights to home fixtures against England are highly prized because they command some of the biggest fees from broadcasters.
ITV is believed to have paid an upfront fee, estimated by industry insiders at between £500,000 and £750,000, to Kentaro. Typically, a broadcaster would pay 25% of its rights fee upfront for a one-off deal such as this and hand over the balance after the match had been played.
But it is understood that the Montenegro FA ended its relationship with Kentaro and instead subcontracted the rights to a rival agency, SportFive.
ITV, which has the rights to all England home games until 2014, is faced with trying to recover its money from Kentaro and having to negotiate a new deal with SportFive, which could offer the match to rival broadcasters. Kentaro still counts the Montenegrins among its clients on its website, claiming it is “proud” to support the Montenegro FA “and their famous president Dejan Savicevic”.
An ITV spokesman refused to comment on the contractual situation with Kentaro but said: “We are working with SportFive towards securing the rights and we’re looking forward to screening the match.”