IT is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. In the case of cinch, their involvement with the SPFL has certainly got people talking.

When the used-car sales platform clinched a long-term deal to be the title sponsor of Scottish football last summer, they could never have imagined the drama that would unfold.

The story has been befitting of the game in many ways, the kind of saga that our clubs and governing bodies do best. On Wednesday night, Rangers claimed victory.

Here, Herald and Times Sports looks at how the cinch drama has played out and why there are questions and concerns over the SPFL once again.


The cinch brand has become increasingly prominent in sport over recent years and the company - which labels itself as the 'fastest growing online used car marketplace' - agreed a five-year contract with the SPFL last June.

Worth £8million, the deal saw the four Leagues rebranded as cinch Premiership, cinch Championship, cinch League 1 and cinch League 2 and payments - from a pot of £1.6milion per season - are paid out to clubs depending on their placings at the end of the campaign.

Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive, lauded the sponsorship as 'an enormously significant partnership for our member clubs, and for Scottish football as a whole' but Rangers were concerned over cinch's involvement given their long-standing relationship and commercial ties with Park's of Hamilton.


Rangers refused to use cinch shirt patches or advertising material during their Premiership win over Livingston on the opening day of the 2021/22 campaign and later insisted that they had informed the SPFL about their worries and position before the deal was signed.

Over the course of the campaign, Rangers opted not to use cinch logos on strips or the league flag that was unfurled to mark title 55. All interviews with managers and players were conducted away from cinch-branded boards and the firm's masthead was taped over when Giovanni van Bronckhorst was recorded on Sky Sports following a match at Fir Park.

In August, the Ibrox board insisted that under League rule I7, Rangers were 'not obliged to comply with this rule if to do so would result in that club being in breach of a contractual obligation entered into prior to the commercial contract concerned'. Those obligations are with Park's, the firm owned by chairman Douglas Park.

Stewart Robertson, the Rangers managing director and a member of the SPFL board at the time, accused the League of blowing £500,000 of cash that could have gone to clubs on agency fees to secure the cinch sponsorship.

Two days earlier, League chairman Murdoch MacLennan had hailed Doncaster's dealings and hit out at Rangers as the war of words escalated.

“In the context of what is, by any measure, a challenging economic environment, our Chief Executive and his commercial team deserve huge credit for delivering this deal," MacLennan wrote in a letter to the other 41 member clubs. "It is therefore very disappointing that one of our clubs has not felt able to deliver inventory to cinch."


On August 9, MacLennan again wrote to clubs and confirmed the SPFL had taken the matter to the Scottish FA for arbitration as the stand-off took another twist. Convinced of their position, Rangers defended their stance.

"The refusal by one of our clubs to provide inventory for cinch presents a real and substantial commercial risk to the SPFL – and one which materially threatens the SPFL's fee payments to all 42 SPFL clubs," MacLennan said. "This is the first time in the history of the SPFL, or the SPL before that, where a club has not provided agreed inventory to the League for use in fulfilling a commercial Contract."


Rangers moved to bring a halt to proceedings when Park's of Hamilton were not included in the legal process, despite being an ‘interested party’ in the case. When this was ruled to be in breach of SFA regulations, the arbitration was stopped and Park's were awarded costs after a hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We were surprised that both the SFA and SPFL vehemently argued against this petition, despite the fact that their rules clearly state that any arbitration process should feature all interested parties. Park’s is proud of its association with the SFA and Scottish football, which dates back over 50 years, so it is with regret that we were forced to take this action."

In their own statement, Rangers highlighted their concerns, which they claimed were shared by many member clubs, over the running of the SPFL. A year after attempting to remove Doncaster and MacLennan from office, the Ibrox board had the bit between their teeth once again and recent months have seen no let up in that regard.


In effect, Rangers 'won' on Wednesday as the SPFL announced a renegotiated deal with cinch. Doncaster revealed that Rangers 'are no longer required to participate by providing the sponsorship inventory that they have so far not provided' but Rangers will continue to profit from the cinch arrangement.

The package was approved by Premiership clubs and Doncaster stated that the 'overall income to Scottish football is expected to remain materially unchanged over the original five-year term of the sponsorship.' 

With Rangers claiming 'full vindication' of their stance and clubs having signed off on the deal, there seems no need to proceed with the costly legal process. Rangers still have worries over the corporate governance of the SPFL, however.

The Ibrox board may feel that they are due an apology from League chiefs for their approach throughout the case and it remains to be seen what the total cost to the SPFL, and therefore the clubs, is from this saga that now seems needless.

Doncaster has become a human deflector shield throughout his time in office but surely he can only sustain so many blows before his position is seriously questioned? Rangers still have the chief executive in their sights but is the voice of the collective that is heard loudest at Hampden.