Why SPFL chief Neil Doncaster was unfair on BT Sports' coverage of Scottish football in his 'pathetic' comments about the broadcasting deal

BT Sport presenter Darrell Currie hit out at Neil Doncaster’s ‘pathetic’ comments about coverage of Scottish football

Who can forget BT Sport’s promotion for the Betfred Cup semi-finals in 2017 between Hibs and Celtic and Rangers and Motherwell. Sorry, Hibs v CELTIC, RANGERS v Motherwell.

The TV adverts to let viewers know the Old Firm were in the semi-finals was bordering on parody of a newspaper headline. It was so lacking in subtlety, so embarrassing that it was actually pretty funny. Hibs saw the amusing side to produce a ‘great bit of social media content’.

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But it was the reaction from those working on the ground for the broadcaster, the ones with a passion for Scottish football bringing us the action on a weekly basis which was really notable.

Darrell Currie (third from the left) hit out at comments made by Neil Doncaster. Picture: SNSDarrell Currie (third from the left) hit out at comments made by Neil Doncaster. Picture: SNS
Darrell Currie (third from the left) hit out at comments made by Neil Doncaster. Picture: SNS

Prior to the start of their coverage of the Betfred Cup semi-final weekend, presenter Darrell Currie and pundits Chris Sutton and Stephen Craigan took it on the chin, but in the style us Scottish football fans have come to expect of BT Sport, or more accurately their production partner Sunset + Vine.

They apologised for the mistake in an amusing video which saw a huge HIBERNIAN sign being bundled into Hampden Park by the bungling Sutton. It was a fantastic response, hands up but let’s have a laugh while we do it.

It is something supporters of Scottish football appreciate and respect. Own your mistakes, show a human side and just keep trying to do good work.

Show us love

Neil Doncaster said that he thinks Sky Sports will give the Scottish game the coverage it deserves. Picture: SNSNeil Doncaster said that he thinks Sky Sports will give the Scottish game the coverage it deserves. Picture: SNS
Neil Doncaster said that he thinks Sky Sports will give the Scottish game the coverage it deserves. Picture: SNS

That’s why SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster’s comments regarding the change in broadcasting deal were misguided and somewhat unfair.

Speaking on the Price of Football podcast, he said: “I think we will see the Scottish game given the profile and coverage it deserves next year by Sky Sports.

“2009 was the last time we had an exclusive partner. Since then rights have been shared so it’s perhaps no surprise the broadcasters haven’t given it the love they show other leagues.

“I’m confident we will see a sea change in the approach with Sky taking up the reigns exclusively."

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It brought about an understandably angry response from Currie, easily one of the most passionate, reputable and engaging presenters around, as well as from Emma Dodds, a reporter on BT’s Scottish football coverage.

Doncaster may not have meant to criticise BT Sport with his words, but it is hard to look past the comment: ‘Broadcasters haven’t given it the love they show other leagues’.

If there is one thing Currie, Sutton, Craigan, Dodds et al have given Scottish football, it is love.

More than just love they raised the standards and brought life to coverage of live games which had seldom been seen before. In that first meeting when they got the rights it wouldn’t have been a surprise to walk in and see ‘RESPECT’ written in across a board. The desire to give Scottish football the respect it deserves.


What they have done is bring coverage which is more than just the 90 minutes of football. They had fans wanting to tune in for their 30 minutes Scottish football extra show before coverage of the live match even started.

They innovated, they engaged, they informed. But most of all they entertained.

In Rory Hamilton and Derek Rae before him, they secured two of the best Scottish football commentators around. From Rae’s encyclopedic knowledge and research which included his kaleidoscope of notes, to Hamilton’s ability to guide you through a match, while holding his own against messrs Sutton and Craigan.

The latter two may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and their partisanship for certain teams rubs some up the wrong way. Personally, I don’t mind it. People will ask for neutrality, but I think it is important for players and pundits to retain that feeling of being a fan.

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The duo have been huge in BT’s success, biting away at each other to the point where you begin to wonder whether they actually hate each other or it’s more of a playground crush. They bought into what the broadcaster was trying to do, summoning up some wonderful back and forths, and even better pre-coverage clips. Who can forget Craigan wiping out Sutton? Not once. But twice!

There have been a revolving cast of pundits, from the no nonsense Michael Stewart to the captivating Ally McCoist. Seriously, imagine just going for a pint with Ally? Next thing you know you’re on a boat to Nova Scotia.

Even the more criticised pundits produced moments of (often unintentional) genius. Terry Butcher’s two pints of… something or other joke, anyone?

Big shoes to fill

The more you look back at BT Sport’s coverage of Scottish football – again, thanks to Sunset + Vine – the more you realise how many games they have covered in their own and brilliant way.

When Currie branded Doncaster’s comments “pathetic”, he was bombarded with messages of support and praise.

By and large Scottish football fans have really taken to BT Sport, and used it somewhat as a barometer, almost telling others ‘this is the level you have to reach’.

Sky Sports are much-maligned among Scottish football fans due to careless errors, usually on Sky Sports News. Wrong names, wrong teams, wrong badges. Just like BT Sport’s adverts, those mistakes are mostly made down south and by those not involved in the coverage they bring.

There are those working on Sky Sports in Scotland who do a fantastic job, bringing excellent content to social media and coverage to the website, whether it is interviews, classic matches or features.

But there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever, Sky Sports have big shoes to fill when it comes to showing the love BT Sport – and Sunset + Vine – have given Scottish football.