Media Lifeline: Football rights

Sky turns up the heat in the battle for top-level fixtures with Champions League bid.

2002: Sky muscles in on live Champions League coverage, which has been the sole province of ITV since the tournament's revamp for the 1992-93 season. ITV retains half the live rights, but Sky scoops the other half. Each pays about £40 million for three seasons to May 2006 - and the deal is renewed until 2009.

November 2005: The Premier League had long resisted pressure from the European Commission and European Union competition authorities to allow more than one broadcaster access to top-league football. (Sky has had sole rights to live Premier League coverage since 1992.) Now, the league caves in and says the rights will be divided into six new packages, each of which will run for three seasons from 2007-08.

April 2006: Predictably, Sky wins five of the six packages put up for auction, but Setanta takes the sixth, totalling 46 matches a season, mainly Saturday evening and Monday games. Setanta is to pay £392 million over three seasons; Sky pays £1.7 billion for the remaining 92 matches a season. For the first time, Sky now faces the prospect of competition in its pay-TV sports heartland.

March 2007: And Setanta (pictured) ups the ante when it bids successfully, in partnership with ITV, for all England home internationals and the FA Cup for four seasons from August 2008 until July 2012. Its winning joint bid of £425 million edges out Sky and its terrestrial partner, the BBC.

March 2008: Sky hits back, however, with a mammoth bid (rumoured to be in excess of £240 million) to take the majority of Champions League rights for three seasons (2009-10 through to the end of the 2011-12 season). In an attempt to preserve plurality and competition, one package (the best game each Wednesday evening) is held back; but, with ITV strapped for cash, Sky is rumoured to be in pole position for that, too.

Fast forward ...

August 2008: All hell breaks loose when it is revealed that, following the collapse of negotiations about the future format of the Champions League, Europe's top 18 clubs plan to secede, and now intend to launch a European league tournament that will also lead to their expulsion from individual national leagues. As panic spreads through Europe's football economies, it emerges that Setanta has signed a deal in principle with the breakaway clubs.