The future of The League Cup is in doubt after The Co-Op announced the ending of their 11 year sponsorship.
With the tournament the subject of constant criticism from clubs and supporter apathy the Scottish Football League will have their work cut out to find a new sponsor.
Three years ago Tennents ended their long running sponsorship of The Scottish Cup with the SFA unable to find a commercial sponsor before Willie Haughey and the Scottish government came up with alternative backing for an unknown sum.
The SFA were able to continue supporting the competition thanks to their sponsorship deals for the international side and Sky Television contract but the Co-Op deal is the SFL’s major sponsorship deal.
Without a cash injection and with even the semi-finals of the competition failing to attract crowds of over 30,000 the future of the competition must be in doubt if no outside sponsor can be found.
Against a tough economic background SFL chief David Longmuir will have to use all his negotiating skills to bring in a new sponsor to replace the £1m/year backing given by The Co-Op.
A possible Celtic-Rangers clash and a Hampden final televised live are the only attractions of the tournament which has slipped dramatically in importance over the last twenty years.
Longmuir confirmed: “ Obviously I’m disappointed that the Co-operative Insurance sponsorship will end but I fully understand and accept the decision.
“The company has always been an active and involved partner in what has been a highly successful sponsorship which has allowed us not only to raise the profile of the competition but also that of Scottish football.
“The current contract ends after this season’s final and we will now be working to secure a new sponsor for the tournament.
“There’s no doubt that after the the excitement of last week’s round three games, the cup offers a great promotional platform at the heart of Scottish football. As a strong sponsor of Scottish football, Co-operative Insurance will be missed and I wish them every success in the future.”
Last week four clubs- including Rangers and Dundee United- failed to send any representative along to the draw for the quarter-finals.
That wouldn’t have had any bearing on the decision of The Co-Op to pull out but highlighted the level of contempt that clubs have for the competition.
The SFL could possibly afford to run the competition for another season but if they are unable to attract a sponsor the tournament is likely to face the axe with the SFL not having the funds to underwrite the costs of staging the competition.