SPFL defends itself after claim £20m TV cash has been left on table; Celtic games undervalued

By John McGinley

March 17, 2023

A spokesperson from the SPFL has defended the league’s decision to sign the most recent television deal with Sky Sports after accusations as much as £20m may have been left on the table.

Celtic derbies against Rangers are the plum offering of the Scottish game when it comes to revenue and broadcast interest, with a new report from The Herald suggesting that the recent £29.2m per annum deal struck with Sky was well short of the league’s true value.

Stating that derby matches compare favourably to English Premier League matches from a commercial perspective, The Herald reckons that the SPFL could have sought to earn more than £50m a year – or at least explored that opportunity – should a tender have been offered to the market instead of just re-signing with Sky.

Photo by Jeff Holmes/Getty Images

Media rights expert Martin Ross notes his ‘disappointment’ that other deals were not considered, pointing to a competitive market that includes Viaplay and Warner Bros Discovery’s partnership with BT Sport. Ultimately, the league decided not to test the theory of a greater rights value, opting for the security of an existing relationship.

Now, the SPFL have denied that an error has been made, telling the newspaper: “In 2022, amidst huge worldwide economic uncertainty, we were delighted to announce a four-season extension of our exclusive live domestic broadcast deal with Europe’s leading sports broadcaster, Sky Sports.

“That extension involved a substantial increase in the value to be paid by Sky. At the same time, Sky agreed that SPFL Clubs would, for the first time, be allowed to sell Pay Per View rights for to up to five home games per season. This has created a new, valuable and additional income stream for our clubs.

“That the hard-headed and experienced business people running 41 out of our 42 clubs agreed a change to SPFL Rules to allow this deal to be approved speaks for itself. However, this outstanding result was achieved only after a huge amount of market testing and intelligence gathering, and months of detailed negotiations with Sky. We tested the market fully in 2022 before awarding the rights to Sky Sports and it is completely incorrect to claim otherwise.”

The fact the deal never went to tender did surprise many observers and supporters at the time, including myself. You would have thought they’d at least try to attract multiple bidders. The SPFL’s stance is clear – they don’t think there was a viable competitor out there.

It’s nice to think they are acting on better information available to them than we do and, as stated, only one club voted against the TV deal – Rangers. That means Celtic were happy enough with what was on offer from Sky. Ultimately, if the vast majority of the clubs felt it was the best deal – that’s what Scottish football deserves to be paid, regardless of what the masses think.

In other news, Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou’s brilliant response to league strength concerns after Moriyasu call.