We are still at least six months away from the next Premier League television contracts being awarded, but the battle between, in the red corner, a combination of Sky, the Premier League and England's top football clubs and, in the blue corner, the European Commission, Ofcom and an unlikely alliance of media companies is well under way.
What the Premier League wants is to be left alone to continue its cosy arrangement with Sky which first began 13 years ago, in which Sky currently pays pounds 340m a year for exclusive rights to broadcast live Premier League football. The league's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, is due in Brussels tomorrow to argue that case, but unless there is a dramatic turnaround in views inside the commission, this time the league and Sky could be on the losing side.
When the last contracts were awarded, in 2003, the competition commissioner, then an Italian called Mario Monte, only agreed the deal on the basis that, first, a few live Premier League matches would be made available to the terrestrial broadcasters during the period of the new contract and, much more importantly and crucial to the current negotiations, that next time around at least one of the four packages of games has to be sold directly to a broadcaster other than Sky.
One of the last things I did as BBC director-general was, in January 2004, fly to Brussels to meet commissioner Monte and his staff. They were very pleased with the agreement they had reached with the Premier League, as it meant that Sky's monopoly would finally come to an end in 2006.
As it has turned out, all the live games have ended up on Sky during the current contract, as neither ITV nor the BBC were willing to pay the price Sky demanded for the matches, so the European Commission is even more determined to have change this time around.
The new competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, argues that at least two of the live games packages (five instead of four are mooted this time around) available each week should go to a broadcaster other than Sky.
It's obvious why Sky wants to stand hand in hand with the Premier League as its whole business has been built around the football contract, but it's not so obvious why the league should want an umbilical cord …