The Premier League has blocked Manchester United from screening a pay-per-view game tonight (Wednesday) because it risked breaking exclusive TV rights with Sky and the BBC.
It is the first time that a Premier League club has tested the power of Sky’s exclusivity deal by threatening to do its own pay-per-view operation.
The biggest club in the country was to screen its home game against Southampton live at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground.
It also had plans to screen its next six games as an experiment.
However, the Premier League says that the move could infringe the deal it has with Sky and the BBC worth 743m over five years. The contract gives Sky exclusive rights to screen pay-per-view games.
It could also reduce crowd attendance at nearby football league grounds.
A spokesman for the Premier League says: “Clubs can screen live games in the cinema or at its home ground, but to use another ground like this has never been done before.
“The Football League is also interested to know how this will impact on gates in the North-west.”
The Premier League says it is considering the proposal but has not yet laid down a timetable for a decision.
Media consultancy Oliver & Ohlbaum, which recently prepared a report on the financial state of the game for the Premier League, says that the pay-per-view market could be worth 250m a year.