The Scottish Premier League’s chief executive, Neil Doncaster, was unable to confirm that his clubs’ matches will be televised in 2012/13.
Pulling the plug? Neil Doncaster refused to confirm that Sky will be covering Scottish football. Photo: PA
By Ewing Grahame
11:59PM BST 16 Jul 2012
With the Rangers newco exiled from the top flight for at least three seasons the fear is that Sky, who agreed to a new, improved contract last November (which remains unsigned) on the condition that both Celtic and Rangers would be in the SPL, may now withdraw.
The broadcaster has refused to comment on the issue but, while its withdrawal would represent a massive PR disaster for both Sky and Doncaster, the prospect remains that the clubs may now not receive their next payment of £635,000 from the station on Aug 6, an outcome which would plunge several of them into severe financial difficulties.
Doncaster spoke after Monday’s SPL AGM at Hampden but refused to confirm that Sky will be covering Scottish football.
“You know I’m not going to be drawn on the future,” he said. “When we’re in a position to clarify where we are with all of our partners then we’ll do so.”
It was pointed out to Doncaster that, since the new campaign begins in less than three weeks, time was of the essence. “Yes, I know that: it doesn’t change the situation,” he said. “I cannot comment on that at the moment. At the point where we can give clarity we’ll do that.
“I speak to [Sky] on a regular basis. I’ve been in London for much of the past few weeks and I expect to be in London for much of the next few weeks.”
Asked whether a deal was in place, he replied: “It is what it is. I’ve been as clear as I can. I can’t be any clearer. I won’t be drawn on the specifics of any commercial arrangement, I’m not going to do that.”
He also refused to provide any guarantee that Sky will be showing Scottish football next season. “You’ll write whatever you need to write but I’ve been as clear as I can be,” he said.
Tellingly, Doncaster said in March that a deal with Sky hinged on both Old Firm clubs being in the SPL. He said: “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.
“What will be in the next contract from the summer remains to be seen. You do a deal originally in a short-form agreement and then the long-form agreement follows that later on. That’s in process at the moment.”
One thing he did confirm was that, having finally confirmed Dundee as Club 12, their opening SPL fixture away to Kilmarnock may be postponed due to the wranglings with Charles Green and Sevco Scotland Ltd over the conditions attached to their SFA membership.
These include accepting the 12-month transfer embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association (subsequently ruled unlawful by Lord Glennie at the Court of Session) plus any other fines and sanctions which may be handed down as penalties to the oldco.
Included among their number would be the punishment from the SPL board for the dual registration scandal, whereby Rangers (under the stewardship of Sir David Murray) allegedly failed to fully disclose the payments being made to employees in offshore accounts.
“That’s something that will come back to the new SPL board,” said Doncaster. “We have another board meeting in a few weeks and that issue will be tabled at that meeting on Aug 10.”
Will Rangers need to wait until then to get their SFA membership? “That’s an issue for the SFA,” he said. “It’s not a straightforward process of transferring the share over. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done between the three governing bodies, Rangers oldco, and Rangers newco.
“That work needs to cover off all the outstanding elements that have been discussed. There’s a mechanism within our rules to take that share if need be.”
Doncaster conceded that this process may not be concluded before the big kick-off on Aug 4.
“Possibly not, but we’ll work around that as we need to,” he said.
“We’ll try to get it all done by agreement but if we can’t get everything agreed for a smooth transition then there are avenues we can take to ensure the share is transferred to Dundee.”
Green himself added: “It is now for newco to take on board the sins of oldco to clear a way forward.
“There is a point where unless I as CEO accept sanctions then we won’t be granted permission to join the SFA. But it’s a balance between what’s fair and what’s required.”