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How costly will Doncaster’s BT Sport ‘gaffe’ prove for the SPFL and their Chief Executive?

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For over a decade Neil Doncaster has tread a careful line, mindful of saying anything out of place that might upset a vested interest (stakeholder) in the Scottish game.

Keeping sponsors and broadcasters sweet has been absolutely essential making most of his interviews as dull as dishwater.

Doncaster knows the issues to avoid and rarely ventures into the media, preferring the safety of statements released through the SPFL website.

Recently he agreed to take part in a podcast for the Price of Football which was recorded before the sport was suspended by the impact of Coronavirus.

An ‘Old Firm’ title race was recently a prospect while a new five year deal with Sky Sports provided a lift in income even if it remained one of the poorest in Europe, lagging behind the broadcast deals enjoyed in Scandinavia, Austria and other nations that don’t share Scotland’s passion for football.

Unusually Doncaster provided a personal opinion that has already been noted and dubbed ‘Pathetic’ by one BT Sport employee.

Covering the Podcast, The Sun reports:

I think we will see the Scottish game given the profile and coverage it deserves next year by Sky Sports. We went through a process – an auction process effectively – BT and others had the chance to outbid Sky.

We had joint rights between the two since 2012 and before that with Setanta – 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.

BT Sport is a current partner of the SPFL who are in breach of contract. BT were due to screen last week’s Motherwell v Aberdeen match which the SPFL failed to deliver on.

In the current situation the SPFL are in more need than ever for the remaining payments from BT Sport. They have a deal to broadcast a dozen more matches including the SPFL Play-Off fixtures.

With the Chief Executive of the SPFL claiming that his product hasn’t been shown the love that it deserves it wouldn’t be a surprise if BT Sport changed their attitude to the Scottish game or decided to ditch it from their schedules. Since last Friday subscriptions have been getting cancelled in their thousands.

Even after the SPFL announced their exclusive deal with Sky Sports there was no lack of commitment to the Scottish game from the rival broadcaster. They could have taken the huff, cut costs and provided token coverage for the remaining 18 months of their deal.

The next conversation between Doncaster and BT Sport should be interesting, if there is any threat to the money they pour into the SPFL the clubs are likely to start asking some probing questions of their £300,000/year Chief Executive.

Money from BT Sport provided part of the £3,350,000 prize money that Celtic picked up for winning last season’s SPFL title.

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