Fox Soccer to Honour SPL Deal


In an era where the amount of control television has on football has become a hot topic of debate, there is a story of one company doing the right thing.

The news from Fox Soccer will have huge ramifications for the survival of many Scottish clubs. (Click to enlarge)

Prost Amerika has learned that the Fox Soccer Channel intends to continue broadcasting Scottish Premier League matches to the end of its announced contract in 2014.

On March 13, the channel sent out a press release entitled “FOX SOCCER PLUS BECOMES NEW HOME OF SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE”.

The gist of the release revealed that the American soccer channel was announcing a new deal to cover the SPL through to the end of 2014.

“We are proud to welcome the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League into our family of networks,” said Dermot McQuarrie, Senior Vice President of Production and Assistant General Manager of FOX Soccer.

“The SPL is a top competition, featuring some of the most historic clubs in European football, including both Celtic and Rangers,” ran the release.

Shortly after the end of the season in May though, turbulent events in Scotland began to unfold relating to the financial affairs of one of the two SPL sides McQuarrie mentioned, Rangers Football Club.

A massive back payment due to the taxman was not delivered and the club went firstly into administration, and when the tax authorities refused a Company Voluntary Agreement for pennies in the pound to pay off the debt, Rangers Football Club was liquidated.

The club also had smaller debts to a litany of other smaller outlets including several other football clubs.

Rangers remaining assets were sold to a new company, known as Sevco5088 (also known as the Rangers Newco), who tried to claim the Scottish Premier League place vacated by the old club as their own. They wished to do so without inheriting any of the debt, a deal that was unsurprisingly rejected by the Chairmen of the other SPL clubs.

Dire warnings ensued about the finances of the remaining clubs shorn of the revenue of visiting Rangers fans. More alarming was the prospect of television companies withdrawing from the Scottish game because of the lack of Rangers matches which would undoubtedly lead to a reduction in viewership given the size of the old club’s support.

Speculation has been rife in Scotland that the television companies, especially BSkyB and ESPN, may be set to renege on the existing deals which are worth a large percentage of their revenue to Scotland’s existing clubs.

Those agreements are said to have guaranteed both Rangers and Celtic remaining in the top division, a seemingly bizarre thing for any league to guarantee for a future five year period in a structure where relegation routinely takes place.

They also guaranteed four matches between the two per season, in a league where the top and bottom six clubs split off after two games with each other and play in mini-leagues. In effect, the league promised a guaranteed top six finish for both clubs to the television companies.

According to the Guardian however reporting on July 16, those new agreements were not actually ever signed despite being agreed in November 2011.

The Guardian continued that the uncertainty continued:

“BSkyB, whose deal was to include showing the Old Firm derbies, declined to comment on Monday about what its approach will be.

ESPN, which said it is “proud to be a broadcast partner of the SPL and a supporter of Scottish football,” said in a statement:

“We want to have a continued relationship with Scottish football and, naturally, that would need to make sense for Scottish football, for fans and for our business. We look forward to having fruitful discussions on that basis.”

The loss of such a deal would put many of the other clubs’ finances, already in a precarious position, on a further downward spiral.

Amid a mood of uncertainty, the BBC asserted:

“It has been reported that broadcasters are not keen to sign up to an SPL television deal without having access to Rangers newco’s matches as part of the overall offering.”

There is however some very good news for Scottish football from Fox Soccer Headquarters.

FOX Soccer Executive Vice Present and General Manager David Nathanson confirmed to Prost Amerika:

“Despite recent events, in accordance with the terms of our agreement, FOX Soccer will continue to broadcast the best matches from the Scottish Premier League on its platforms including FOX Soccer Plus and FOXSoccer2Go”

In the original agreement (see above) high profile games between Rangers and local rivals Celtic were to be screened on Fox Soccer with other games on Fox Soccer Plus.

Although the former will no longer take place, the remaining part of the package will remain in place with games set to screen as before on Fox Soccer Plus.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Barry Robson will be able to watch his old league on television

The Fox part of the deal in itself may not be worth a great deal of finance to Scottish clubs by itself.

However, Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns Sky Television.

As Fox takes its coverage from BSkyB’s cameras and production team, an insinuation from Fox’s decision may be drawn.

Fox seem to be anticipating BSkyB’s cameras being present next season and through to the end of the 2013/14 season.

Even if not, they clearly still anticipate someone else covering the matches and providing a feed.

If BSkyB or an alternate are going to be around for the next two seasons, Scottish clubs will have some valuable breathing space to cut their financial cloth to meet the new Rangers-free reality.

The crisis in Scottish football will continue but this news out of Fox Soccer Headquarters will delight the chairmen of every club in the SPL. It alone may not stave off the future financial Armageddon some are predicting, but it suggests that the worse case scenarios of total abandonment by the broadcasters will not transpire.

Despite the positive vibes from this side of the Atlantic, the remaining Scottish clubs will be anxiously waiting to hear someone over there, whether it be BSkyB, ESPN or someone else, make a definitive statement about the future coverage of Scottish league football.

At least, in the short term, there is some good news today.

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