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Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 19:38 UK

Old Firm blast SPL over TV deal

Setanta Sports may have broadcast its last live football
The SPL had to turn to ESPN-Sky after Setanta went into administration

The Old Firm have hit out at the Scottish Premier League over its handling of television rights.

The 12 SPL clubs have accepted a five-year broadcasting deal from Sky-ESPN worth £65m - less than half than had been agreed with the collapsed Setanta.

Celtic say the SPL's leadership must shoulder the blame along with the clubs for choosing Setanta instead of Sky, which had cost clubs £70m.

And Rangers said they did not believe the deal represented value for money.

Setanta entered into administration at the end of the season after it was unable to make final payments to both the SPL, which had agreed a new £125m four-year deal due to start in 2010, and the top-flight in England.

American broadcaster ESPN teamed up with Sky to win the rights to England's Premier League.

With some SPL clubs fearing administration should no television deal materialise, the new partnership went on to become the only group to make an offer for the Scottish rights.

Celtic chairman John Reid said: "Celtic have a responsibility to speak out for our supporters who will be deeply dissatisfied with the background to, and outcome of, today's SPL decision and the events leading up to it.

Lessons have been, and are being, learned

SPL chairman Lex Gold

"No-one should under-estimate the blow that has been inflicted on this club and Scottish football by the way in which the whole affair has been handled - and by the losses incurred.

"Last year's decision to reject the Sky bid and opt for Setanta - arrived at against the strong opposition of Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen - has proved to be the disastrous misjudgement we indicated it might be, with Setanta now in administration.

"In turn, this has led to the dilemma we now find ourselves in. Today, the SPL accepted a bid that is less than half the value of that offered by Sky last year.

"The whole SPL is now a commercial victim, in an uncompetitive TV market, in the middle of a recession, locked in for years to an income some 60% lower than last year's bid."

Celtic chairman John Reid
John Reid said the SPL's handling of the rights had been a debacle

Reid said the decision had "cost us all some £70m".

The Old Firm had come up with a late proposal for Celtic and Rangers, who had their own channels under the Setanta arrangement, to buy the rights themselves.

"We reserve the right to continue to explore those options not only for the longer-term benefit of Celtic Football Club but for everyone involved," added Reid.

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain questioned the value of the new television deal.

"With the advent of Sky and ESPN now working together in a joint bid, values of potential income have halved since the Setanta deal was first signed in June 2008," he told the club website.

"We do not feel that the values now presented in relation to the length of term proposed by Sky and ESPN are a fair and true reflection of the value over the length of the term of the whole contract.

"However, Rangers FC have to abide by the majority vote this morning in favour of the Sky and ESPN contract."

SPL chairman Lex Gold defended his organisation in light of what the Celtic website described as a "debacle", stressing that it had been a collective decision.


"For the record, everyone is disappointed with the demise of Setanta, no-one more so than the SPL at the centre - and its clubs," he said.

"Twelve months ago, the executive and the board of the SPL brought forward two deals which, at the time, were both credible and strong: one from Sky and one from Setanta.

"At the time, the clubs approved the Setanta deal by majority.

"Had we delayed to the normal timetable for going to market, we would have been in the middle of the biggest downturn the economy has seen in decades.

"The SPL is a democratic organisation and that process sparks debate and differing views.

"Lessons have been, and are being, learned, but our clubs today agreed that there was little value in reheating past disagreements."

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see also
SPL agrees TV deal with Sky/ESPN
16 Jul 09 |  Scottish Premier
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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