Tuesday, March 06, 2012

SPL: Reach for the Sky

Some interesting discussions today around the SPL TV deal.

Would the rest of the clubs vote with their bank accounts and go easy on Rangers to preserve their income from Sky and ESPN?

Perhaps. Or so some of us thought.

One of the reasons we thought that was because we we were told:

"But it has never been feasible to have 16, 18 or 20 because you automatically mean going to one home game and one away. We think that will take £20m per season out of Scottish football in terms of lost gate and TV revenue.

"One of the conditions of this deal — as with all major sponsorships — is that Celtic and Rangers remain in the league. It is also a condition that they play each other four times a season. That’s been with us for the entirety of the current deal and before that with Setanta."

"There is no room to manoeuvre in terms of expanding. Fourteen teams might potentially work in terms of having a split league and retaining four Old firm games. Maybe. That would be feasible."

These quotes are from Neil Doncaster in November 2011.

That's Neil Doncaster, SPL chief executive. Someone who you might expect to know the details of such a deal.

Yesterday we were told:

"The current contract, which comes to an end this season, says Rangers and Celtic must play each other four times a season. That’s in line with most of our large contracts – our title sponsors are the same. That’s no different from any other league with its biggest clubs.

"What will be in the next contract from the summer to be seen. You do a deal originally in a short-form agreement and then the long-form agreement follows that later on.

Who told us this?

Why, it's Neil Doncaster, SPL chief executive. Someone who you might expect to know the details of such a deal.

The more hysterical among us have been happily chirping about the lies and myths propagated by the mainstream media.

There might be horses in the mainstream media. But on this occasion they were led to the water and forced to drink.

My view:

It suited Doncaster to dwell on the four game stipulation in November when he thought the biggest brickbat thrown at his deal would be the way it rode roughshod over dreams of an SPL expansion.

In March, now that he's been dragged kicking and screaming into the current crisis at Rangers, he's had to change tact.

He doesn't know where this will end up but he's got to try and protect the league as best he can while dealing with gargantuan mismanagement at best and over a decade of cheating at worst.

"You do a deal originally in a short-form agreement and then the long-form agreement follows that later on."

The long and the short of it? How binding is the "short-form agreement". What wriggle room will Sky have - and I suspect they'd want to wriggle right out of the room - in negotiating the details of the "long-form agreement."

We still don't know.

What Doncaster - and the clubs - will know is that viewing figures, when you drill down beyond the headline figures the SPL like to spout and look at audience profiles in the way TV executives and media buyers need to do, suggest that the SPL product isn't all that attractive. With or without four Old Firm games a season.

Does that mean the SPL becomes the Rangers Preservation League. Maybe, maybe not. But whatever Doncaster said yesterday it will remain a consideration for some clubs.

Here's another Doncaster quote:

"What will happen in the future? I never predict anything in football."

He displayed his true talent yesterday. He spoke and he spoke but he really said nothing at all.

Sources:

Daily Telegraph
Daily Record
The Guardian

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