The Times has named Reading as one of 15 Championship clubs interested in forming an EFL breakaway league if the organisation sign a new television deal with Sky Sports next week.
Reports of potential revolt from second tier clubs first emerged in The Sun at the weekend, with other outlets also picking up on the story in the past couple of days. The Times though are the first to name the teams who have supposedly signed the letter, with Reading being joined by Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Preston North End, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Swansea City and Birmingham City amongst others. Leeds United, owned by Eleven Sports founder Andrea Radrizzani, and Mel Morris’ Derby County are believed to be the two main clubs driving the petition.
Why do they want to break away?
The issue centres around a new broadcast deal for 2019-2024 that the EFL are set to sign with Sky next week, which will see the cost of the TV rights increase from £88 million to £119 million. However, many Championship clubs feel that they would not earn enough money from this new agreement.
Currently, teams receive £2.3 million each from Sky per season plus a share of £10.8 million depending on their number of TV appearances. Under the new deal, £2.95 million would be awarded to each club every year, with appearance fees pot going up £17.7 million, but some sides want these figures to double.
There is also concerns about midweek fixtures appearing on the Sky red button and the iFollow service in the UK, features that have been introduced this season and seen match attendances decrease.
Reading will actually earn one of the fewest totals of money from TV revenue this season, with only five Royals games set to be broadcast up until April 10 - just two clubs, including fellow breakaway backer Preston, will have less games televised.
Could this actually happen?
The clubs involved clearly feel strongly about the situation, as they met in secret last Tuesday to discuss a possible breakaway before an official EFL meeting later in the day.
After they had received the proposal to create “a new task force comprising certain Championship club owners and/or senior executives”, the EFL called an emergency meeting for Monday, but no resolution was reached.
The deadline for the league to sign the new Sky contract, which has been on the table since September 2017, is next Monday at 4pm. They do still have the authority to agree the deal without the support of the biggest Championship clubs, as those in League One and League Two are all in favour. They reportedly have planned for both scenarios, but with a clear preference to keep Sky as the principal broadcaster, which it has been since 2009. No other broadcaster has provided an alternative offer.
Perhaps crucially, the clubs keen to breakaway are yet to contact the Premier League, who would have to validate the creation of a new league and authorise promotion and relegation. They are believed to be opposed to this.
If a new league was formed, it is unclear whether Reading would still be involved should they get relegated from the Championship this season.