TV Heaven Or Hell For SPL

I should start this by saying that although I do have a media background this is just a lot of speculation on my part and a look at what MAY happen.

BskyB and BT Vision have just been confirmed as the live TV coverage providers for the English premier league (EPL) from season 2013 till 2016. At a cost of an eye watering £3bn.

Now this is no doubt fantastic news for the EPL, they are again rolling in cash and lets face it the product isn’t actually that good.

But what does this mean for the SPL.

Well as things stand they have an £80m deal from the start of this upcoming season till the end of the 2016/17 season with BskyB and ESPN waiting on the table to be signed by all parties.

Problem is that deal has a proviso in it that there is four Old Firm games. Rangers are currently being liquidated and the SPL now have to decide whether or not to expel a Newco Rangers from the league or allow them to stay in.

SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster has said since November that the four SPL Old Firm games clause was in the contract when he was dismissing a bigger league…

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.

But it has never been feasible to have 16, 18 or 20 because you automatically mean going to one home game and one away.

He would then go on to speculate what a two Old Firm game a season SPL would mean in terms of losing TV money…

We think that will take £20m out of Scottish football. That is a massive amount of money per season, in terms of lost gate and TV revenue

Another point he brings up is the current financial situation that the whole world finds itself in…

Against the global economic context, where rights values are down, Sky and ESPN were willing to bid more for a product they were already contracted to for another two and a half years.

Now there is no doubt that Doncaster is probably being a bit bullish here suggesting he has done an amazing job and there is also a bit of scaremongering going on just to stop calls for an enlarged SPL.

BskyB are the biggest partners in both EPL and SPL deals.

So if the SPL loses Rangers, one of its top two teams, that are have a global name, the league and the broadcasters will also lose the top four watched matches the league can provide.

So on the back of spending £760m a season on upcoming EPL seasons, would we be surprised if BskyB said no thanks to keeping to a deal with the SPL that doesn’t consist of having four Old Firm games?

They may go back to the original deal which is worth £3m a season less and would run out in 2014. That deal is certainly not as secure as the 2017 deal or have as much money involved.

Plus according to the SPL Chief the same exit clause exists that the SPL needs both Old Firm deals so even the current TV deal & any sponsorship deal with the SPL is in danger of going out the window this summer as Doncaster said…

Yes, that’s been the case for a number of years. It’s the case with all the major sponsorships we enter into.

“One of the conditions is Celtic and Rangers remain part of the league. It is also a condition they play each other four times a season.

So it looks like both broadcasters have that get out clause would we be surprised if they used it?

Well Sky have the EPL and there 116 games plus shows that go with them. They also have La Liga games and certain international matches. Plus a whole load of other sports including golf and now F1 both very lucrative sports that will be worth more than the SPL.

Now they have just told the world they are splashing out £700 odd million a year on EPL football, why would they not then look at where they can save some cash?

They would look at an SPL without Rangers and think we don’t need that or at least not for anywhere near the cash we have on the table currently.

Take a break and wait for a Newco Rangers to re-enter the SPL in the future and decide then. Remember they will still have the Scottish Cup and would keep that in the hope of an Old Firm clash.

ESPN could be interesting now.

They have lost their TV rights for EPL games consisting of 23 live matches plus a few highlights shows. They do have the American sports and other football leagues such as Serie A, the Bundesliga, MLS and the Eredivisie.

So there is are a few options open to them when it comes to the SPL.

Should Sky wish to still be involved they both might simply get together, cut up the pie as they see fit and offer a deal that would be around £1om-£20m less than the current deal not even close to the new deal!

They could go it alone (if Sky aren’t interested) and try and beat off any competition with a decent offer but that still wouldn’t be better than the one they are offering now and that would be without SKY who are paying the most in the current deals.

They would see the SPL as keeping a regular British product on their channel. It will provide decent numbers although nowhere near what they would be getting with Rangers in SPL or with their EPL games.

They could… Could decide to get away from the British experiment and just decide to revert to the 2014 deal (even renegotiate that) as that would end at the same time as their deal with the FA for the FA Cup games.

Then take it from there and see if they want to stay in the British market.

Maybe BT Vision would be interested but would they get any deal done inside a few months? Their EPL deal doesn’t get underway until 2013. They might see the SPL as another lucrative package to build up profile and use it as a good exercise to get things ready for their EPL coverage.

Do they have the money or was it all spent on EPL deal? Would SPL fans want to pay two subscriptions on top of a Sky one to see Scottish football, plus still go to games?

Then there is the possibility of SPL TV.

Well can they get that done inside one close season? They’d need to hire a hell of a lot of people, hire equipment, rent out studio space and arrange subscriptions, tv deals for foreign partners and all this cost comes on the back of £13m a season black hole in their budgets from the seasons coming up till 2017.

There are a few Scottish teams already struggling since the Rangers crisis. Dunfermline decided to close the doors to a stand last year as a cost cutting exercise. Hearts failed to pay their players on time numerous times last season. Various teams have already offloaded top earning staff from their wage bills.

Some suggest that by attracting 300 more fans each game then the SPL sides will recoup any attendance money lost by no visiting Rangers fans.

Well where are these fans coming from?

Attendances have dropped in the last ten years. If it was as simple as getting 300 extra bums on seats each game then they would have done it already.

That said the inclusion of Newco Rangers may drop season ticket sales further. The SPL clubs have too look at all avenues and possibilities, they have to include fans and take their opinions on board.

It might just come down to a simple question… Guaranteed money or fans support?

The SPL are notoriously short sighted and money grabbers but can they do that here?

For me, I would punish a Newco Rangers for the crimes of the former company.

What that punishment would be is the tough question.

Demotion to the SFL, who would then have to place them in a league of their choice possibly the third division. That would mean that SPL clubs and their fans would then have to understand that they may lose a lot of TV/sponsorship money. They may lose at the gates, Celtic season tickets have gone up slightly probably due to VAT but can they sustain that price over three years without Old Firm games?

Deduction of points and more fines for the Ibrox club but keeping them in the SPL would keep money in the SPL but would that satisfy the the SPL fans?

Fact is that the sport is now also a big business and the SPL chairmen have to walk that fine line like never before. They have to make a decision that will certainly upset some and its not a decision I would like to make. But its a decision that has to be made public, they cant hide behind anonymity, the Scottish public needs to know who voted for what.

Leave a Reply