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Sky will stay loyal to SPL without Rangers, says former station boss

SKY will stay loyal to the SPL despite the exit of Rangers from the league but the broadcaster is likely to renegotiate its deal in the absence of the Ibrox club, according to the former executive producer of the station's Scottish football coverage.

Former Sky man Colin Davidson
Former Sky man Colin Davidson

The SPL is to hold emergency talks with Sky within the next 24 hours to seek clarity on how the TV station plans to deal with the club's relegation to the Scottish third division.

Sky is the SPL's largest broadcast partner and makes up the bulk of the £16 million-per-season deal currently in place.

Football bosses have not been able to get clear answers on what Sky's level of interest will be without the Glasgow giants and the draw of Old Firm fixtures.

However, Colin Davidson – former executive producer of both Sky and Setanta's Scottish football coverage – does not believe the broadcaster will walk away from Scottish football. But Davidson says the onus is on the SPL to convince Sky to stay.

He said: "What Sky are facing now is a very different set of circumstances in the SPL. Without Rangers it is a diluted product for any broadcaster. They may well want to renegotiate the contract.

"All Sky have to do is listen. It will be up to the SPL to convince them to stay. What they won't do is pay them more money than the product is worth. The deal is worth far more to the SPL than it is to Sky.

"If they renegotiate, I think the SPL has done well. I do think Sky will be loyal. They have, historically, been very loyal partners. When they enter into a partnership with any organisation they do their best to be as supportive as they positively can."

The decision to put Rangers in the third division has yet to be officially ratified by the Scottish Football League, though the club has indicated that it will not challenge the decision and talk of forming a breakaway 'SPL2' division has gone quiet.

It seems fairly certain that Rangers will take the place of Stranraer, which lost the third division play-off final on penalties at the end of last season.

The SPL's other broadcaster, ESPN, has assured the league it is committed to showing Scottish football and could now pursue a deal with the SFL to show Rangers' division three games.

If Sky does decide to pull out, it is understood the SPL will look to resurrect plans to launch its own TV channel.

This idea was first floated in 2001 in the days of former chief executive, Roger Mitchell.

Stewart Gilmour, the St Mirren chairman, yesterday described the decision of the Scottish Football League (SFL) clubs to vote Rangers into the third division as "terrible; catastrophic even" and could lead to "major redundancies".

He added: "I just hope [the SFL] realise the damage they have done to Scottish football. Five clubs in the SPL could be in administration within weeks – and we will have to do everything we can to avoid being one of them."

ALEX Anderson, the Cowdenbeath secretary, also said: "We are totally disgusted at the way the whole situation has been handled by the SPL and the SFA. It is a sad day for Scottish football.

"The actions of the SPL and the SFA and the image that has been created could well endanger any future investment in the Scottish game."

He said that SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan – on whom a vote of confidence was proposed and seconded, but not voted on at Friday's meeting – "should now be considering their own positions" following their handling of the situation.

"We are deeply disillusioned with the hierarchy of Scottish football," he said.

Doncaster estimated that moving Rangers to the third division could cost the Scottish game as much as £16 million.

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