Neil Doncaster cannot lift lid on safety of SPL television deal

Neil Doncaster: no assurances over TV deal. Picture: SNS
Neil Doncaster: no assurances over TV deal. Picture: SNS
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SCOTTISH Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster last night offered no assurances that the competition would have a television deal next season after the clubs vowed to stand behind the Rangers newco’s Third Division move.

The SPL invited Dundee to replace the old Rangers in the top flight following their annual general meeting, where no moves were made towards revisiting their decision to reject the Ibrox club or forcing an SPL2 breakaway.

Scottish Football League clubs were warned that the SPL could lose ££15.7 million – all but £1million from broadcaster – as Rangers prepare to be relaunched in the bottom tier but Doncaster has refused to make any predictions.

Sky and ESPN were due to sign a new £80m five-year deal this summer but their existing £13m annual contract still has a year to run.

However, most of the SPL’s commercial deals have an exit or re-negotiation clause should one of the Old Firm be absent.

Doncaster said: “In terms of financial consequences, we’ll work through that over the coming days and weeks with our partners and as soon as we’re in a position to make an announcement about the reality then we will do so.

“I’m not going to be commenting specifically on any discussions with any of our partners. It’s important that we work intensively over the next few days and weeks to bring clarity for the benefit of our clubs and we’ll do that as soon as we can.”

ESPN said after the SFL vote on Friday that they wanted to continue their relationship with Scottish football but Sky Sports has made no comment.

Stenhousemuir produced a detailed report of their briefing by Doncaster and SFA chief executive Stewart Regan which stated that the SPL broadcasting rights were valued at £3m if the new Rangers kicked off life in the Third rather than the First Division.

But Doncaster said: “That document was put together by the SFL not the SPL or the SFA.”

Some SFL clubs felt that an SPL2 breakaway was inevitable should they reject the First Division plan but Doncaster said: “Certainly that is not something I have said to anyone, either to the clubs or the media.

“SPL2 wasn’t on the agenda [at yesterday’s meeting].All of our clubs were focusing on the reality of Rangers being in Division Three and Dundee being invited to take their place.”

Regan had vowed to block attempts to put the Ibrox club in the Third Division but Doncaster says he is unaware of any intervention plans, although Charles Green’s Sevco Scotland have still to acquire the transfer of Rangers’ SFA membership.

“It’s probably a question for Stewart rather than me,” Doncaster said.

“Our clubs talked about the position following Friday’s vote and they were quite clear that they would do what they can to facilitate the decision taken by SFL clubs.”

Doncaster rejected claims from some SFL clubs that they had been “bullied” and “threatened” into accepting the First Division plan, which 25 of them rejected.

“I don’t think that’s fair at all,” Doncaster said. “What we’ve tried to do is set out the facts as we see them. Certainly I’ve done that. Stewart Regan has done that.

“I think Stewart Regan has taken a lot of very unfair criticism over recent days. The guy has just been trying to do his utmost for the game in Scotland.

“I think the sort of personal attacks he has had really don’t do any credit to those that are making them.”

Criticism of Regan intensified at the weekend with a leaked email laying bare his central role in the plan to put newco Rangers in the First Division.

But Doncaster said: “Decisions can only be made by the clubs, decisions can’t be taken by executive bodies.

“The clubs have made their views felt, that’s clear and we have to draw a line under the issue and move forward.”

When asked whether he would consider his own position, Doncaster said: “That’s really for the 12 clubs who I represent to take a view on, not for me.”

Doncaster vowed to continue dialogue with the SFL and SFA over reconstruction proposals but confirmed there would be no promotion play-offs for the top flight in the coming season.

And he said the £2m settlement payment to the SFL might not be paid in full.

“It’s not a fixed figure, it’s calculated based on the rate of inflation and the SPL’s commercial revenues,” he said.

“As soon as we’re in a position to establish what they are, then that will determine what the payment is this season.”