While the absence of any branding might continue to lend the competition a pleasingly nostalgic flavour, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster yesterday stressed that there has been no let-up in the efforts to find a sponsor for the League Cup.
This week’s results, which included a shock win for Morton against Celtic at Parkhead, have helped increase interest in the tournament. Clubs such as Inverness and St Johnstone now have the opportunity to win their first major trophy, while Aberdeen, who were yesterday drawn to play Motherwell in the last eight, are eyeing a first cup
success for 18 years.
Meanwhile, the presence of an Edinburgh derby in the quarter-final fixtures further helps to raise the profile of the competition. “It has certainly given it a particular spice,” said Doncaster, before perhaps ill-advisedly wondering: “Who would want to be a bookie?”
Doncaster dismissed the notion that the League Cup has passed its sell-by date, particularly now the Scottish Football League has merged with the Scottish Premier League to form the Scottish Professional Football League.
“I believe it does have a real relevance to football in this country and it is fairly commonplace for countries to have a league-only cup competition, and we have that as well,” he said. “I am extremely proud that the SPFL has the Scottish League Cup. Certainly I feel that clubs give it the respect it deserves and it deserves a lot of respect.
“I was privileged to be at the Falkirk stadium last night and, for those who might suggest the competition lacks a bit of relevance, it looked pretty relevant to the Aberdeen players last night,” he added. “It is the first opportunity to get a national piece of silverware and clubs are taking it seriously.
With regard to the lack of a sponsor, Doncaster said he was comfortable with the situation. As with finding a sponsor for the SPFL, he claimed that it pays to take time to secure the right deal. “I think it is important to understand the organisation has only been in existence for a matter of weeks, or a few months,” he said. “We have only had this cup within the SPFL for that amount of time. When you are talking with organisations within the UK and elsewhere they are looking at budgets a year or maybe more ahead. It takes time to put deals together and have these conversations and that work is on going. We are certainly confident in the competition as we are with the title itself. It is important to wait for the right partner at the right value.”
Doncaster is open to naming a new sponsor before the quarter-final ties are played, meaning the cup could be rebranded before October. “You don’t put any time limit on it at all,” he said. “Whenever you conclude a deal with any sponsor that is the point you unveil it. There is no reason why that might not happen at all.” However, the chief executive shot down the suggestion that the winners of the trophy might be handed an automatic European place, as was once the case. “It is important that we look after the co-efficient for the country,” he explained. “And my belief is that it is important to have the strongest teams overall playing in Europe. That gives you the best chance to earn more co-efficient points and that benefits the country overall. I think it is important that we have the best teams that we can representing Scotland in Europe.”
With Hampden out of commission for football next year due to the Commonwealth Games the question of where the final will be played in March still needs to be addressed. “We have the luxury of being able to take our time and see who will be making their way towards the final, and base our decision on that,” said Doncaster.