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SBD Global/July 18, 2012/Franchises

As Rangers' Blackout Fears Emerge, SPL Chief Continues Talks With Sky

The Scottish Premier League could kick off on Aug. 4 without a live television deal after CEO Neil Doncaster was "unable to offer any guarantees" that key broadcasters would not walk away with Rangers no longer in the top flight, according to Graeme Macpherson of The HERALD SCOTLAND. With Rangers newco being placed in the third division, the deal agreed with Sky and ESPN last Nov. worth £80M over five years "seems to be in doubt, placing several SPL clubs in financial peril." Doncaster would not be drawn on Sky's position except to say that he has "further talks planned with all commercial partners." Doncaster said, "We've got something in the region of 15 or 20 commercial partners that we'll need to talk to and when we're in a position to announce what the reality is we'll do that" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 7/17). In Glasgow, David McCarthy reported Doncaster insisted that the SPL had "not tried to bully the SFL into voting Rangers into Division One" on Friday. The accusation was thrown at him by lower league clubs, whose decision to place the Ibrox side "into the bottom league led to St. Mirren Chair Stewart Gilmour claiming five top-flight clubs could go to the wall." Doncaster refused to admit that, "having told the SFL that the game would lose £16M ($25M) this year if Rangers were not in Division One, this was the situation now staring the clubs in the face" (DAILY RECORD, 7/17).

NO GUARANTEES: In London, Ewing Grahame noted that when asked about whether a deal with Sky was in place, Doncaster replied: "It is what it is. I've been as clear as I can. I can't be any clearer." He also refused to make any guarantees that Sky would be showing Scottish football next season. Doncaster: "You'll write whatever you need to write, but I've been as clear as I can be." Back in March, Doncaster tellingly said 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" (TELEGRAPH, 7/17). In Edinburgh, Alan Pattulo reported that one sticking point remains the "granting of an SFA-approved licence to Rangers newco" in order for them to take their position in the Third Division. Rangers CEO Charles Green will meet with the SFA to "sort out a number of issues" with the Scottish game's governing body. One of the issues being the transfer embargo and £100,000 ($156,500) fine imposed on Rangers for bringing "the game into disrepute" (SCOTSMAN, 7/17).

SETTLING DEBTS: The HERALD SCOTLAND reported that Green is "travelling to Switzerland in a bid to negotiate with UEFA a settlement" to repay the £3M ($4.7M) of debts owed to European clubs. Green has revealed that he will "travel to Athens to secure a friendly against Olympiacos" at Ibrox before going to meet with UEFA. Green: "Part of the conditions for the newco to meet to satisfy SFA membership is that there are certain old club debts to European clubs. It is not inconsiderable, it is about £3M ($4.7M) that has been accumulated as part of the historical baggage." Green also thinks that there has been a "change in attitude from the fans towards him and revealed they can ultimately own up to 50% of the club." He said, "I am trying to do a job that rescues Rangers for the fans and for the people who own this club. They can own up to 50% of this and again if fans choose not to buy shares then that is their right. The opportunity is there, we will have fulfilled our promise to fans and that is the next step" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 7/17).
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