Neil Doncaster reveals Rangers row lessons learned as SPFL on verge of TWO new lucrative deals – Q&A in full

Neil Doncaster has revealed the SPFL are on the verge of securing a new sponsorship deal that will be the most lucrative ever - and insists lessons have been learned over the Rangers row that erupted after the cinch partnership.

Hampden chiefs brokered a deal with the car dealer back in 2021 worth around £1.6 million a year over five years but they got out of it early, leaving the SPFL on the hunt for a replacement. It proved to be a controversial agreement with the league forced to apologise to Rangers and pay a six-figure compensation as it was in conflict with their own Park Motor Group deal, owned by former Ibrox chairman Douglas Park.

The row was one of a number of controversies during Doncaster’s time at the helm and he made a rare appearance after 15 years in the job as he spoke to BBC Sportsound as he issued a sponsorship update and revealed they have invited offers for a 20-game package over and above Sky’s 60-game deal which kicks in next season. Here are some of the key points from his wide-ranging Q&A.

Where are we with a sponsorship deal?

Cinch are coming out of the contract this summer and I’m optimistic we’ll have a replacement for the start of the new season. Brendan Napier has been the Commercial Director of Scottish Football Marketing and that’s one of the inventions Ron Gordon, God bless him, brought to the table. He was keen we should work together to maximise sponsorship so he came up with this concept so the SFA, SPFL and SWPL all work together and Brendan goes out on behalf of the whole of the sixth floor at Hampden. It’s never done until it’s done. It’s been a difficult market but Scottish football overall is in a good place. It doesn’t do any harm that we’re going to the Euros and have an exciting competition at the top of the cinch Premiership and had record viewing numbers in terms of the recent Rangers vs Celtic game. I hope the new deal will be better financially for the clubs.

Why is the cinch deal ending two years early?

When we did the deal in 2021, cinch had the ability to come out after three years. Normally you expect a sponsorship to be a three-year term. They agreed to a five-year term but the car market has changed enormously and they have exercised the right to exit.

How do you reflect on the Rangers court dispute?

We’ve drawn a line under it and I’m delighted with the way we’ve been able to work with all of our member clubs, including Rangers, on a number of issues since drawing a line under that. It’s been helpful having James Bisgrove on the board and he and John Bennett are doing what they can to strengthen relations across the whole of the game and that’s good for all of us. It’s important to have everyone on the same page. It’s important we look back and see what we could have done better. We undertook a governance review which was carried out independently and one of the areas looked at is what can we do in terms of the rules to prevent a situation like that happening again.

Fans will say they want more games on TV and don’t want Hearts and Hibs not on TV…

We did the deal back in 2022 to extend with Sky and we’re going up from 48 games to a maximum of 60 and giving clubs the ability to have up to five PPV games per season but also crucially having the ability to take a further 20 games to market so we’re currently in that process at the moment. We issued an ITT (invitation to tender) about two weeks ago to various broadcasters and we’ve had a couple of rounds of bidding. We’re working through that. They’ll be decent games involving Rangers and Celtic, the Edinburgh derby. Sky could bid for the other 20 but the reality is they’ve bought over 1000 English Football League games so they are awash with football content in the UK so I would expect it to be bought by another broadcaster. We’d love Apple and Google to be bidding aggressively. Amazon will be out of the English Premier League market - they didn’t succeed in the recent auction - but you have the likes of DAZN, Premier Sports and TNT Discovery who might be short of football content and might be interested so I’d be hope to be in a position to have more games.