Future of Champions League coverage still unclear in battle of the channels


England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria pulled in a staggering 7.3m peak audience on ITV.

And that is a timely reminder to UEFA of the power of terrestrial television as they prepare to begin negotiations for the next round of Champions League rights with bids due in by the second week of November.

There continues to be concern at UEFA and among major sponsors about viewing figures on BT as the best game in last season’s Champions League, Liverpool’s comeback against Barcelona, pulled in an audience of 2.9m.

But BT Sport could yet have a clear run at the next round of TV rights because Mirror Sport understands that ITV have yet to decide whether to bid and any bid they make would probably have to be in partnership with Sky.

Ian Wright has won praise for his words following the vile racist abuse in Bulgaria

Sky defiantly boasted after losing the Champions League rights that they would not lose a single subscriber and their excellent Premier League coverage continues to be the biggest single driver of subscribers.

So, the question is: why on earth would they need to spend millions on getting the Champions League rights back?

ITV’s coverage from Sofia rightly drew praise and internally they could not be happier with Ian Wright for his strong and compelling views on racism during the game. Former England striker Wright has matured into one of the best and most entertaining pundits on TV.

ITV also got a peak of 6.3m for England’s game with Czech Republic. Coverage of both games blew everything else away on TV.

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Earning the Sterling

Raheem Sterling has become one of the most marketable players on the planet

Raheem Sterling has become the most commercially sought after player in the Premier League.

England star Sterling is set to take over from David Beckham as the hottest property in football having been signed up as the new face of Gillette, is doing an advert for Pepsi and is doing a tie-up with H&M.

Sterling has over six million followers on Instagram, starred in an advert for video game FIFA 2020 as well as being the cover story of the next FourFourTwo magazine. Manufacturers are also ready to break the bank to secure his next boot deal with his current Nike deal due to expire next year.

Manchester City forward Sterling, 24, has earned deserved plaudits for his fight against racism, is arguably England’s best player and his profile and good looks have made him a global superstar.

Southgate to look abroad

Gareth Southgate is considering taking his squad to a foreign training camp

Gareth Southgate is discussing whether England will do some of their training for Euro 2020 away from St George’s Park.

England are just one win away from qualifying for what is seen as a “home tournament” as they are set to play all three Group matches at Wembley and were expected to use their own training base for the build-up and duration.

But they could yet do a foreign training camp or have some of their sessions closer to Wembley to mix it up with England boss Southgate acutely aware that the players could get “cabin fever” if they spent more than six weeks based at Burton.

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It may cause some raised eyebrows if England do not use their state-of-the-art facility for all of Euro 2020 but another possibility being discussed is changing some elements of St George’s Park to help with the boredom factor.

Marvelous Mings

Tyrone Mings was one of the main targets for racist abuse in Bulgaria

Tyrone Mings has rightly been lauded for the way he conducted himself in Sofia.

Not least because he did more than half an hour’s worth of interviews with TV, radio and newspapers while still in his kit and flip flops as he wanted to get his message out there. Pure class.

There is also suspicion that Kieran Trippier – whose father Chris is mixed race – may also have been targeted.

Trippier is one of the most popular players in the squad and members of his family deserve praise for the way they stood up and challenged racists in the crowd when England players were subjected to racist abuse in Montenegro in March.

Dog days are over for Clough

Nigel Clough is barking mad for his dog

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Nigel Clough has made a regular habit of mentioning his beloved dog at press conferences.

Burton boss Clough brought his Hungarian Vizsla dog Bobbie into the press room last January and even said he went to check on him during last month’s Carabao Cup tie with Bournemouth when the game was delayed by a series of floodlight blackouts.

And his friends have been told a curious story as to why Clough named his dog Bobbie. Clough was bitter about being sacked by Derby as he holds the club dear to his heart and struggles to forgive their former chief executive Sam Rush.

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It may be coincidence but it was another Bobby, Bobby Zamora, who scored a dramatic last gasp winner for QPR to beat Derby in the Championship play-off final five years ago.





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