Neil Doncaster's blog - Up for the challenge
New SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster plans to keep in touch with everyone via a regular blog, the first of which is below...
When I announced to colleagues I had accepted a job with the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, their reactions, somewhat predictably, contained broadly the same themes – domination by the biggest clubs and question marks over club finances. Oh, and by the way, it’s also bitterly cold!
Well, it’s been quite a start. With the collapse of Setanta in the weeks leading up to my arrival, my first few days at Hampden coincided with the meeting of clubs, which resolved to accept the joint Sky / ESPN bid for our TV rights.
Our clubs are having to dramatically alter their budgets to cope with the reduced television revenue – and this at a time when supporters’ pockets have been hit hard by the global credit crisis. The timing of Setanta’s collapse, it is fair to say, could not really have been much worse.
But I see there as being many reasons to be optimistic about the season ahead. We have a deal for live broadcast of our games with two of the biggest and most respected sports broadcasters in the world. Under Setanta, average audiences for live games were around 150,000. The last time we were in partnership with Sky, the figure was nearer 240,000 – which should mean greater exposure for fans, our sponsors, and as importantly, our clubs’ sponsors. As we enter this new partnership with Sky and ESPN, what is vital is that we all continue to promote Scottish football as positively as possible. In that way, when we next go to market, we stand the best chance of achieving a value for our TV rights which is far more reflective of expectations.
The League continues to benefit from broadcast deals with BT Vision and MG ALBA, as well as an overseas broadcasting deal with Sportfive, which has another five years to run – a deal that sees Clydesdale Bank Premier League games being screened in over 100 countries worldwide. On top of that we also have a contract with the BBC for radio commentary, online clips and television highlights this season.
In Clydesdale Bank, we are sponsored by one of the most respected financial institutions in the country. The sponsorship, which remains one of the biggest ever sponsorship deals in the history of Scottish sport, continues to form the bedrock of the range of partnership deals that the SPL has entered into in recent years, including Mitre (our Official and Exclusive Match Ball Provider), Littlewoods (who are behind the New Football Pools), Sporting ID, EA Sports, Sega and Panini (who own the rights to our official player sticker and card collections).
Yes, the Clydesdale Bank Premier League may indeed be dominated by the country’s bigger clubs – but is the situation really much different from the rest of Europe and beyond? With a few notable exceptions, such as the Bundesliga in Germany, where Wolfsburg won the title for the first time in their history, many other European leagues are also dominated by a grouping of ‘big clubs’.
Internazionale, Juventus and Milan in Italy; Porto, Sporting and Benfica in Portugal; Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain; Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in England. Even France’s Ligue 1, which hasn’t had a history of being dominated by a small handful of clubs, has recently been all about just one club - Lyon winning the title for seven years in a row, from 2002 to 2008.
And as for question marks over clubs finances, I read today that UEFA are reported to be concerned about the financial state of some English Premier League clubs. If it can happen to the richest league in the world, then it can certainly happen here in Scotland.
However, it is interesting to note that the 2009 Pricewaterhouse Coopers Review of Scottish Football Finance reported that SPL clubs reported their largest ever recorded profit, of £23million in 2007/2008. PwC noted that: “following a decade of losses and despite the tough economic environment, the positive action taken by clubs has resulted in eight clubs reducing their debts, two operating with no debt, and all but one recording a profit or a near break-even position.” However, it would be entirely wrong to be complacent and our clubs have already embraced new financial reporting rules in line with UEFA standards as part of this process of positive action.
It is my firm belief that, for the SPL to best serve its clubs and football supporters across the country, we need to be accountable, accessible and, so far as possible, transparent. That is the purpose of this piece, which I intend to write on several occasions this season as issues arise. Hopefully, it will help to inform but, as importantly, also to promote debate and discussion about our national game.
With just a month gone since I arrived on the steps of a sun-drenched Hampden Park, I suspect that it may be a while before the bitter cold that I was promised by my colleagues in the south materialises. But the warmth of the welcome that I have received from so many people since I arrived in Glasgow in July has surpassed my wildest hopes. I am delighted to be here. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead and pledge to do my best to make the Clydesdale Bank Premier League an even bigger success in the future.
One thing’s for sure – if 2009/2010 finishes up as exciting as the tension and drama of Helicopter Sunday was in May, then we’re in for one hell of a season.
Chief Executive, Scottish Premier League
Get in touch - We would welcome your comments on Neil's first blog via e-mail at enquiries@scotprem and will publish the best of them on the SPL website.
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