A former top Scottish football league chief has told how his “conscience is clear” over the high-profile collapse of a ground-breaking television coverage deal.

Roger Mitchell, the chief executive of the former Scottish Premier League who later wanted to buy Celtic, tells his personal story in a new book, Sport’s Perfect Storm, and said he has “made his peace with Scottish football”.

In it, he also warns of difficult times ahead for clubs as they “miss the fact it has become more and more marginalised” and steers Big Finance towards what he says are sport’s most valuable assets.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Mitchell lifts the lid on what happened in 2002 when he led an innovative bid to create a go-it-alone SPL TV model to challenge Sky, and he delves into the “murky world of finance” as he unpicks the various funding relationships that previously worked for football, and potentially catastrophic challenges ahead such as piracy.

He warns that football clubs in Scotland are on the edge of a financial precipice.

He said that while sport and the world of finance are increasingly crossing paths, there is often a “mismatch”.

The chartered accountant from Glasgow, who operates the Albachiara consultancy and is based in Italy, said his “conscience is clear” when he looks back to his SPL days, that he no longer plans to buy his favourite club Celtic, and that he has “made his peace with Scottish football”.

In the book, Mr Mitchell also talks about his time with Virgin Music in the “last great days of the music industry” before digitalisation, which he likens to the “waterfall” many sports clubs are now looking over.

The Herald: With Ľubomír Moravčík while at the SPLWith Ľubomír Moravčík while at the SPL (Image: SPL)

He said Scottish football has “continued to get very angry about its local little problems and missed the fact it has become marginalised”.

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He also said: “Working in the sports industry you see more and more connection with the world of finance and that is a mismatch of understanding in many ways.

“Finance looks at sport as another asset to be investing into and I don’t think sport is that necessarily. It is a community asset, a society asset.

"The idea that finance looks at purely as a return as I was seeing over these three or four years was something that I wanted to comment on and maybe give people an idea of where they can make mistakes.

“It is about the difficulty of the sports industry just now and how we get out of it. That is very, very complex, because we are facing as an industry three or four big macro changes.

“One is that younger audiences want something different not the sport that we grew up with. Secondly, the governance of sport is probably no longer fit for purpose and needs to get out of the way it was 150 years ago, because it still operates the same way.

“The media sector that has financed sport for 30 years is changing, because the old subscription model just doesn’t work any more, people go direct to streaming or worse, piracy. That is really going to hurt us as an industry. You have got Saudi Arabia coming in that wants to do with sport what its own agenda is.

“All these things are what I believe is the end of a 30-year bull market.”

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Mr Mitchell also said: “As far as Scotland is concerned and Scottish football is concerned they need to look beyond the end of their nose and see what is happening in the world and understand how they want to play in it."

The SPL chief between 1998 to 2002 said so far the response to the book has been positive.

“I have been overwhelmed. We have had two or three different audiences for the book. One of them is the young people coming into the world of business maybe from a financial background, and I wanted to give them an idea of a finance book that was more easily digestible.

The Herald: Roger Mitchell said he has been 'overwhelmed' by the response to the book Roger Mitchell said he has been 'overwhelmed' by the response to the book (Image: Albachiara/Amazon)


“The second one is the people in sport who maybe the book sometimes is rather unkind to. Privately they have come to me and said that the book has been an eye-opener, it has been what’s needed.

“Nobody has come in and said, well maybe they wouldn’t do this anyway, but nobody has come in and said how dare you, who do you think you are. It has been very good.

“Big Finance, private equity and investment banks, there’s a couple of chapters in there about the murky world of finance and it is uncovering a little bit about how they operate in the shadows and even there, I’ve had big private equity companies coming on and saying we would love to work with you, you have let us understand what is happening in sport.”

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He added: “There’s a lot of insight. My story at the Scottish Premier League.

“The chapter on SPL Television in the book - there was 12 teams in my league at the time, ten were very behind that idea, which was a risky idea, it was a radical idea, it has been proven to be correct. Celtic and Rangers for their own reasons said no to that.

“My conscience is clear. I think a lot of what has happened in sport and the media industry and direct to consumer thinking has all proven to be true.

“So I think people will find that an interesting read, to see what happened back in 2002.

“And [to] compare it to where they are today with their Netflix or Apple TV and Disney Plus, I think they’ll find it very interesting.”

Mr Mitchell, who also runs the sports business podcast Are You Not Entertained?, continued: “So that is why I would recommend the book to people. It’s an agent provocateur a little bit to start thinking beyond what happens with the referees on a Saturday.”

He also said he would like to see “more ambition” from Celtic, adding: “I’m not a fan of the current ownership of Celtic and I’m sure they’re not a fan of me, but so be it. I’ve made my peace with Scottish football a long time ago.

“I’m in a relaxed place.”

Sport's Perfect Storm, Amazon, £22.73.