The real reason behind SPFL and Sky's controversial £118m deal as we await Celtic stance

By John McGinley

August 12, 2022

The main talking point in Scottish football today has been the reported structure of a new SPFL TV deal that is set to be done with Sky Sports.

As we discussed last night, The Guardian delivered a breakdown of the new £29.5m per annum rights package, which the newspaper says is close to being agreed upon between both parties.

In total, it’s said to be worth £118m over four years from 2025.

Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

More details emerged in today’s press, and the most interesting tidbit came from The Scottish Daily Mail [12/08 print edition, back page], which reported that talks have been ongoing since last September.

Why the rush, with the current agreement not expiring until 2025? The paper says that interest from Premier Sports in a secondary package of 20 games emerged last year, prompting Sky to assert its desire for exclusivity and open discussions with the SPFL.

The reaction from supporters and some journalists to all of this has been fierce. One of the main criticisms seen today is that the SPFL are simply committing far too early to Sky, and for too long, to 2029.

The last agreement reached with the broadcaster came 18 months before its start date, while we’re currently a massive 34 months away from the 2025 rates kicking in. Even waiting a year to get a sense of the lay of the land would have made sense.

Premier Sports’ reported interest last year is a perfect example of why. Although their intent back then is now largely irrelevant since being acquired by Viaplay, the Nordic streaming service’s entry into the UK market could create a viable contender for the Premiership rights.

They already now own broadcast rights for the Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup and Scotland matches and have the capital to put up cash for the Premiership too.

We don’t know if they have, or could have intent in this regard, but even if they don’t right now – they may soon. No doubt they are eager to finalise the Premier Sports capture and see how their entry into the UK market goes later this year before striking such a deal.

Crucially, the SPFL have time to wait a little bit before rushing into anything with Sky. If it’s a good deal for Sky today, no doubt they’ll see it as an even better one down the line.

Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

Ultimately the power in this scenario doesn’t come from the oft-criticised Neil Doncaster and the rest of the SPFL executive team. Although they have questions to answer on all this, the power lies with the clubs, who can look to approve and sign off on this deal or explore other options.

This is where Celtic’s stance on it all becomes interesting. We don’t yet know what the club are thinking on all this but they’ll have a vote, just like every other side. What our board thinks could hold sway in how this plays out.

For me, it’s incredibly silly to lock into a less-than-£30m agreement for the next six or seven years. That figure is going look even worse in 2029 than it does today.

The club need to quickly assess what the appetite is for other options and explore them as thoroughly as possible, or Scottish football could be unnecessarily hamstrung for far too long.

In other news, Celtic release brilliant new electrifying Champions League video.