Sky loses match to Channel 5


BRITISH television station Channel 5 yesterday beat off competition from BSkyB in an audacious deal securing live coverage of a crucial England World Cup soccer qualifying match.

The new terrestrial channel is to screen a double bill of England internationals on May 31st, two months after its planned launch.

In the £1 million plus deal it will show England's rugby clash from Buenos Aires against Argentina, followed by the soccer international against Poland.

The move is a surprise because Channel 5, which has an annual programme budget of just £110 million, has always said it would not be able to compete against BSkyB and the other mainstream channels for expensive sporting rights It means about 70 per cent of the British population should be able to see the crucial match from Warsaw, if Channel 5's retuning of domestic video recorders is completed on time.

BSkyB, which has exclusive rights to all of England's internationals at Wembley, declined to comment, although it is understood the satellite station was keen to screen the match.

ITV said it did not bid for the Poland game. From next season highlights of England's internationals will switch from the BBC to ITV.

The special is to be presented by Gail McKenna, a former page three model, who currently hosts sports coverage on Mirror Group's Live TV cable station.