While the Premier League generates "recession-busting revenue increases, times are tougher for the 72 football clubs outside the elite as they battle for media exposure and commercial deals," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Those clubs comprise the three-tier Football League which was "condemned to the role of poor relation since the Premier League teams broke away two decades ago." Now, the Football League is "polishing up its own marketing act, emphasising its ability to reach millions of supporters across the country." It is negotiating with new sponsors, and plans an early start on TV contract renewal talks to "tap in to the growing sporting rivalry between BSkyB and BT." Football League Chief Commercial Officer Richard Heaselgrave said, "We have a very interesting year ahead. We have our title partnership and the renegotiation of our television contract." U.K. energy company npower is in the final few months of its three-year Football League sponsorship, but "change looks inevitable after the exclusivity period for renewal ended without agreement." Heaselgrave said, "We're negotiating with them, (but) we're also negotiating hard with new partners." Football League's TV deal with BSkyB is worth only £65M ($102M) a season under a three-year deal that began in '12. Though less than a year into the current agreement, Heaselgrave "wants to make an early start on negotiating the next TV deal, saying that the entry of BT into the sports rights market has changed the landscape." Heaselgrave: "We'll start conversations this year. There is a buoyant market there" (REUTERS, 1/21).
ManU has taken its "training elsewhere for a week" as it prepares for next week's FA Cup fourth round tie against Fulham, according to John Drayton of the London GUARDIAN. Less than eight hours after the draw at Tottenham -- a match, which was very nearly postponed due to the deluge of snow that fell on London throughout the weekend -- the Premier League leaders "were on a plane heading for the Middle East." The squad has "taken up temporary residence at the Aspire Academy in Doha for a few days of warm weather training." Dressed in shorts and T-shirts -- and in some cases flip-flops -- the ManU players "took a stroll across the enormous complex, which is one of the world's most advanced" (GUARDIAN, 1/21).