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Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 12:46 UK

SPL agrees TV deal with Sky/ESPN

Marc Crosas and Kris Boyd tussle for the ball during an Old Firm game at Ibrox
Sky and ESPN will broadcast 60 live games per season

The Scottish Premier League has agreed a £65m five-year deal with Sky and ESPN to screen 60 live matches each season.

But the SPL has an option of opting out of the final two seasons of the agreement with the new grouping.

Sky/ESPN's deal replaces the one agreed with collapsed broadcaster Setanta, but clubs will earn about half what they would have gained under that deal.

The new contract is worth a similar amount to Setanta's original deal - £13m per year - due to end next year.

Scotland's 12 top-flight clubs - some of whom were facing severe financial problems without a TV deal - voted on the proposal at the league's annual meeting at Hampden Park on Thursday.

And SPL chairman Lex Gold said: "We are pleased that in just over three weeks we have been able to strike this deal.

"Sky and ESPN are two of the biggest names in sports broadcasting and they will bring first-class production standards and a wide audience to the table.

This new deal gives Sky Sports viewers 30 live matches a year, including each of the Old Firm games, and it gives the Scottish Premier League clubs stability and continued investment from committed partners

Sky Sports managing direrctor Barney Francis

"We are looking forward to working with both in the coming years to raise the profile of the SPL for our clubs, fans and partners."

Setanta's original contract began in 2006 and the Irish-based broadcaster had negotiated a new contract worth £125m due to begin in 2010.

However, Setanta lost the rights to top-flight football in England and Scotland after being unable to meet payments at the end of last season.

Disney-owned ESPN last month bought the rights to show English Premier League matches that were to have been shown by Setanta.

It plans to launch a new UK sports channel, called ESPN, on 3 August and reached an initial deal to have the channel shown on Sky, which will also be responsible for selling advertising on the new channel.

Sky and ESPN were believed to have offered a five-year contract, but the SPL appears to have won an option for the final two seasons with the new grouping, and the agreement will last until at least the end of season 2011-12.

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain said this week that he had been in discussions with Celtic about buying the broadcasting rights themselves because they were unhappy at what they viewed as a cut-price offer.

Those late moves by the Old Firm came to nothing at Thursday's meeting, but Celtic chairman John Reid issued a statement critical of the SPL's handling of its television rights and saying that his club and Rangers would continue consider alternative plans for the future.

Lynne Frank, ESPN Managing Director in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: "We look forward to working with the Scottish Premier League and its clubs over the next few years and beyond as we bring British and Irish sports' fans all the SPL action and excitement live on our new ESPN and ESPN HD channels."

Each broadcaster will show 30 live games each season across the UK and Ireland, starting with the 2009-10 campaign in August.

Sky Sports managing direrctor Barney Francis added: "This new deal gives Sky Sports viewers 30 live matches a year, including each of the Old Firm games, and it gives the Scottish Premier League clubs stability and continued investment from committed partners."

Meanwhile, St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour has been elected to the SPL board, replacing Campbell Christie, who has stepped down as chairman of Falkirk.

Gold was elected unanimously for the eleventh time as chairman but indicated that he would stand down in the autumn.

Hibernian's Rod Petrie, Aberdeen's Duncan Fraser and Rangers' Martin Bain were all re-elected by the clubs to complete the SPL board along with newly-appointed chief executive Neil Doncaster.



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see also
Old Firm blast SPL over TV deal
16 Jul 09 |  Celtic
Old Firm 'in talks' over TV deal
14 Jul 09 |  Scotland
ESPN's Premier League rights grow
08 Jul 09 |  Business
SPL takes time over TV contract
07 Jul 09 |  Scottish Premier
Setanta goes into administration
23 Jun 09 |  Business
ESPN buys rights to Setanta games
22 Jun 09 |  Business


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