Sky has said it is “disappointed” by a further delay to its proposed merger with 21st Century Fox, as it won new broadcasting rights for English football.

UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has confirmed that she intends to refer the merger to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on the grounds of broadcasting standards and corporate governance.

Bradley had already signalled she intended to refer the case to the CMA on the basis of media plurality, but said that additional consultation with Ofcom revealed “non-fanciful” concerns existed.

The regulator noted scandals around sexual harassment at Fox News involving the network’s “star anchor” Bill O’Reilly, but said a referral was not necessary.

Bradley has taken a different view, however, although her decision could still be overturned as the parties 10 working days to make further representations.

Fox, which holds a 39.1 percent stake in Sky, announced its intention in December 2016 to buy the remaining shares.

If the case is referred to the CMA, the investigation will take as long as six months.

A Sky spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by this further delay and that the Secretary of State is now minded to refer the proposed acquisition to the CMA in relation to broadcasting standards despite Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, maintaining its advice that there are not sufficient concerns to justify such a reference.

“Nevertheless we will continue to engage with the process as the Secretary of State reaches her final decision.”

Meanwhile, Sky acquired exclusive rights to broadcast the English Football League from the 2019/2020 season until 2024.

This will allow the broadcaster to show up to 183 matches live each year in the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One, Sky Bet League Two, Carabao Cup and Checkatrade Trophy.

Sky will also be able to broadcast 80 Sky Bet Championship midweek matches across both interactive and digital platforms.

Barney Francis, Sky Sports Managing Director, commented: “Securing the EFL strengthens the Sky Sports service even further with the rights that matter most to our customers.

“This follows similar enhanced deals with Sky Sports becoming the exclusive home of F1 from 2019 for five years, and the only place to see England home cricket and the new domestic T20 competition live through to 2024.”

Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed.

Read more: Sky unveils new Spanish TV streaming service

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