SPFL keen to explore possibility of foreign game

The prospect of a competitive Scottish Professional Football League fixture being played abroad has taken a step nearer after confirmation yesterday that international sports rights agency MP & Silva have been appointed as the SPFL’s International Development Partner for season 2013-14.

Picture: Jane Barlow

It is understood that discussions have already taken place at SPFL boardroom level about a game overseas with MP & Silva having also been appointed as the SPFL’s broadcast partner for nine years, from next season.

The terms of this season’s agreement with the SPFL means that MP & Silva will be the sole licensee of the SPFL’s broadcast rights in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia for the rest of this season.

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Efforts are now being made to establish strong ties with what SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster yesterday described as “key” regions.

The possibility of staging a match in these territories is one idea that has been discussed with clubs.

The new agreement is worth a seven-figure sum to the SPFL and, as part of the deal, games will be shown on television, phone and digital platforms, while low resolution streams will also be made available on betting websites within these regions. MP & Silva will own all the broadcasting rights for regions outwith the UK and Ireland from the start of next season.

News of a planned game abroad is likely to concern supporters.

A friendly match between Rangers and Celtic in Boston was considered in 2010, but did not take place after one local newspaper highlighted fears of crowd trouble. Any plan to play a competitive fixture abroad would be a yet more controversial proposal.

In 2008, Richard Scudamore, the then chief executive of the Premier League in England, raised the prospect of all teams playing one extra match in foreign territory, something which was termed “the 39th game”.

The suggestion caused outrage among fans’ groups and the idea was shelved.

However, the concept of playing matches abroad has long been established in American sports, most notably American football.

“We are delighted to announce that we will be working with MP & Silva, one season earlier than planned, in the key territories of the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, including important territories such as China, Japan, South Korea,” said Doncaster yesterday.

“This will extend the coverage of Scottish football around the world, as well as delivering a financial boost to all 42 clubs in the league.”