SCOTTISH football was granted some much-needed clarity yesterday when Dundee were invited to join the Scottish Premier League at the expense of Rangers, whose own demotion to the Third Division, ratified on Friday, the SPL, along with the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Football League, have promised to help “facilitate”.
One sticking point remains the granting of an SFA-approved licence to Rangers newco in order for them to take their place in the Third Division. Charles Green, the chief executive of the Ibrox club, will today meet with the SFA in order to sort out a “number of issues” with the Scottish game’s governing body.
Among them is included the transfer embargo and £100,000 fine imposed on Rangers for bringing the game into disrepute. The Ibrox club went to the Court of Session in May to overturn the 12-month transfer ban, with Lord Glennie referring the matter back to the SFA.
“The real key now for Rangers fans are the issues outstanding with the SFA,” said Green, who added that “verbal” agreement had been reached with Dundee to transfer the Rangers oldco SPL share to the Dens Park club. In order for them to play even a friendly fixture, Rangers will now have to reach firm agreement with the SFA over a number of issues.
“The difficulty we have is we’ve been working for many many weeks now on these issues,” he said. “Unless I as CEO accept sanctions, then there is a point where we won’t be granted permission to join the SFA.”
While Dundee’s promotion yesterday resolved one issue there are many others which remain outstanding, including what has been described as “the £16 million question” concerning the broadcasting of fixtures. Less than three weeks before the new SPL season kicks-off, Neil Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, could not confirm whether games would be shown on television. Sky are still to state publicly their position now that four Old Firm games are no longer part of the equation.
The first instalment of over £600,000 in an £80 million, five-season deal was supposed to be paid next month but there are fears that the contract is now null and void due to the position with Rangers newco. Doncaster stated last March that “the current contract, which comes to an end this season, says Rangers and Celtic must play each other four times a season”.
However, yesterday he would not confirm or deny whether this was the case with the new agreement. Although Dunfermline are still considering a legal challenge in the belief they should be permitted to stay in the SPL, yesterday’s decision, which saw Dundee invited to fill the space vacated by Rangers, at least saw ‘Club 12’ removed from the fixture list.
Dundee are now due to end a seven-year exile from the SPL at Kilmarnock a fortnight on Saturday, but whether this match, or any other SPL fixture, will be shown on television is another question. Doncaster shed little light yesterday, although he did talk of a “challenging situation” ahead as SPL clubs seek to cut their cloth in case the scenario outlined by both Doncaster and SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, who spoke of a £16 million black hole in the game’s finances should Rangers re-start life as a Third Division club, come to pass.
“Certain contracts are not dependent on any particular team being in the division and there are certain contracts which could be,” is all Doncaster was prepared to say yesterday when pressed on the subject of the television deal with Sky. The SPL chief executive did reveal that he is speaking to Sky on a “regular basis” and that he expects to be in intense negotiating-mode right up until the start of the
new league season, on 4 August. “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,” he said. Dundee United chairman Stephen Thomspon, who was re-elected on to the SPL board yesterday, heaped the pressure on Doncaster’s shoulders. After emerging from yesterday’s SPL agm he pointed reporters in the direction of Doncaster, who he said “has his job to do and we will leave him to get on with his job”. Doncaster has been left with a thankless task as he attempts to encourage the SPL’s sponsorship partners to retain faith in a league now bereft of one of its two main selling points.
Doncaster was granted some relief yesterday when Weatherseal announced their intention to honour a sponsorship agreement signed in June, for a six-figure sum. “We’ve been inspired by the way in which clubs are embracing challenge and planning for the future,” said managing director Tony Reilly. Before Weatherseal had released this statement, Doncaster said: “I’m not going to be drawn on where we are with any of our partners. When we’re in a position to give that indication then we will.
“We agreed terms on a new five-year deal with Sky and ESPN in relation to the live broadcast,” he added. “There are currently two seasons remaining in respect to the Sport 5 agreement. We are in the last season of the Clydesdale Bank agreement. We’ve got something in the region of 15 or 20 different commercial partners that we’ll need to be talking with now and when we’re in a position to announce what the reality is then we’ll do that.”