Things have changed somwhat in the world of televised football in the last 20 years:
Peter Robinson, the former Liverpool chief executive, remembers the start of the 1985-86 season, when football was not televised at all. 'There was no deal in place. It only came back on at New Year and the value of the contract when it was signed was about £600,000, which covered all four divisions.' He remembers that negotiators on both sides of the table had reservations about the value of live televised football. 'The broadcasters would play down the value,' he says. 'They'd say things like, "It's a long time for people to be sitting down," claiming that most TV programmes were no more than 45 minutes.
The idea of selling something lasting an hour and three quarters was difficult. They genuinely didn't know how popular it was going to be.' Years earlier, Robinson recalls being asked over to his counterpart at Everton, who wanted to hatch a plan restricting the club's appearances on Match of the Day. 'They wanted to make a deal whereby no club was shown more than once a month because they thought they were being overexposed and they were worried other clubs would see what their tactics were.'
It seems incredible now that anyone could voice such concerns and fear that live televised football would kill off the game. Twenty years on, the latest three-year rights deal with Sky Sports and Setanta is worth £1.7billion and Sky, whose sporting empire now encompasses rugby, cricket and even darts, showed more than 36,000 hours of live sport last year.
Back around 1985 there certainly were doubts on both sides - the clubs thought that too much football on TV was bad for the game, and the TV companies were reluctant to pay as much as the clubs wanted. Having Robert Maxwell on the negotiating team for the Football League can't have helped, either. However, things did start to change quite quickly after that - the following year BBC & ITV paid £6.2 million (for two seasons), and then along came Rupert Murdoch and the Premier League.
It's not just the Premier League, because this week the BBC and Sky have agreed to pay £88m per season for rights to the Football League, Carling Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Clearly that's a lot less than the Premier League deal (and slightly less than ITV Digital agreed to pay in 2001), but I don't think anyone could have imagined 20 or so years ago that broadcasters would pay even a fraction of that for rights to the 2nd, 3rd & 4th Divisions, the Milk Cup and the Freight Rover Trophy (as they then were).