The Conference, formally the top of the non-league pyramid but effectively the fifth division in English football, has signed a television contract with new market entrant Setanta Sports. Setanta have the rights to Scottish Premier League games and recently obtained access to 46 Premiership games from next season. Why should they be interested in the Conference, which although it has its devotees, is hardly likely to bring a big boost to viewing figures? Because, as a new market entrant, anything that broadens their subscription base and fills air time is a plus. Starting next season Setanta will screen 79 conference games a season. They will show two live matches a week, one at the weekend and one on their Thursday night Conference show. The five year deal also involves a revived Conference cup competition, to be known as the Setanta Sports Cup. The extra cup games will be particularly useful to the Conference as they have holes in their schedule following their expulsion from the old LDV Vans Trophy and the revised structure of the FA Trophy. It is not yet known how much money is involved in the new deal, but it is intended to spread it as widely as possible among Conference clubs.
This good news will do little to help financially troubled Conference side Crawley Town who are already having to overcome a deduction of ten points for going into administration. Creditors meet on Wednesday to decide whether to accept former chairman Azwar Majeed's offer of 50p in th pound to clear the £940,000 they are owed. Many fans blame the brothers for bringing the club to its knees through a totally unrealistic wages structure, but the supporters' trust have reluctantly recommended acceptance. The alternative appears to be winding up the club although there is another bidder in the wings. Matt Pearson, the 24-year old director of Europa Sports Promotions, which runs soccer schools for leading European clubs such as AC Milan, is adamant that the legal and financial instruments are place to allow him to take over despite an earlier bid being rejected.