Perspective - Football authorities meet their match as nationals kick back

A usually sane friend of mine recently predicted the demise of PVRs before they manage to take over the world, writes Ian Darby.

This may be the equivalent of an economist predicting that China will fail to become the next superpower, but his argument goes something like this: "Why pay Sky or whoever several hundred quid for a PVR gadget when you can buy a DVD player for £80, hook it up to the telly, and keep buying discs to fill your viewing hours without the constraints of hard-drive storage or having to be a pay-TV subscriber?"

While bankruptcy and a living room resembling a branch of HMV would seem to be the main barriers, he also shows no respect for the thrill of live-event television, evidenced last Sunday by the bad-tempered clash between Manchester United and Arsenal on Sky Sports.

This was obviously not a feature on my friend's DVD-only screen and his resistance to PVRs and pay-TV is unlikely to worry Sky or any other television company.

Newspaper groups and their readers, however, are facing the prospect of a far more serious football-related blackout. For months now, the national newspapers (and the red-tops in particular) have been locking horns with the Premier League and Football League over the vexed issue of "intellectual property rights".

The problems, more of which soon, led to papers (including the Daily Mirror and The Sun) dropping sponsors' logos from league tables and cropping some pictures to avoid showing sponsors' logos on team shirts. So, while Heineken gets a big logo in The Sun above the rugby league tables, Barclays and Coca-Cola (football's official sponsors) are missing from coverage.

Newspapers have taken this action because they claim that the football leagues, through their representative Football DataCo, are making unreasonable demands such as asking for a share of revenue from fantasy football games and dictating when newspapers can make information available via website and text services.

The resultant blackout could cost sponsors around £30 million worth of coverage according to some research and, for newspapers, may result in their photographers and reporters being locked out of football grounds.

A licensing deal with the football authorities runs until 31 October so the bust-up needs to be resolved very soon. Talks broke down last week after three months, when publishers reacted badly to new demands from the football authorities. The betting is that a deal will be struck in time, but all this aggro is an unfortunate reminder of the ineptitude that surrounded the collapse of the ITV Digital deal with the Football League. Only this time, the media owners are not daft enough to play along to the football authorities' tune.