ESPN TV deal: Neil Doncaster welcomes TV deals but cash drops

ESPN have agreed a deal with the SPL. Picture: SNS
ESPN have agreed a deal with the SPL. Picture: SNS
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SCOTTISH Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster has revealed clubs face a “slight” reduction in broadcasting income but warned fans would still need to increase their support to avert

financial hardship.

ESPN yesterday followed Sky Sports in announcing a five-year agreement with the SPL that also allows them to show Rangers games form the Irn-Bru Third Division.

ESPN said yesterday they would show 30 SPL games and ten Rangers games, starting with Dundee United’s opening clash against Hibernian tomorrow.

The broadcasters had been due to sign a new £16million annual contract to replace their £13m-a-year deal this summer, but the collapse of Rangers had given them an exit clause.

Doncaster told BBC Scotland: “There will be money coming out the game as a result of Rangers not being in the top flight.

“Whilst the money is not as high as we would have hoped, there is still some security.

“We will not be announcing figures at this stage. The numbers are down slightly and it’s really for clubs to work with supporters to try to maximise income through the gates.”

The SPL had privately warned of a potential £15.7m shortage in TV revenue if the new Rangers ended up in the Third Division, which included the loss of £2.7m in overseas deals that rely heavily on Old Firm games.

“There will be a seven-figure sum that we will be short,” Doncaster said. “There is significant damage done, particularly to the overseas rights, and it’s up to clubs to try to fill that gap. Certainly there will be some financial hardship, these are not easy times. There’s a financial gap that clubs have to work with.”

St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour revealed cuts would still be needed at his club after the financial uncertainty of an “horrific summer”.

Gilmour said: “There is still a requirement for the club to action some cost cutting to meet the downturn in income. However, this will not be as severe as was anticipated. This is still a difficult period for any business and football is no exception.”