THE SPFL have been accused of leaving up to £20m a year on the table in the latest broadcast agreement with Sky, with the league’s governing body grossly underestimating the value of its flagship fixtures.

Despite 41 of the 42 SPFL clubs ultimately voting through the extension of the broadcast deal with Sky to 2029 in September, with Rangers the only outlier, HeraldSport has spoken to various sources within the game who feel that the timing of the renewal and the way the process was conducted has undersold Scottish football.

The new SPFL deal with Sky is worth £25.7m for this season, up from £24.7m a season under the previous agreement, though the average value per game dropped from £515,000 per match for 48 fixtures to £428,000 per match for 60 fixtures.

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That will rise to £29.7m per season by the end of the new deal in 2029, or £495,000 per match for 60 fixtures, but with audiences for Old Firm matches comparing favourably against high profile English Premier League games – which Sky pay £7.5m per match to show - there are those who are puzzled by the SPFL’s decision not to conduct a full tender process in order to put competitive pressure on the broadcaster.

As part of the new deal, there is an option for Sky or another broadcaster to bid for an additional 10 fixtures over and above the 60 that Sky can already show. Those matches, which will not include Celtic or Rangers, have been valued at £400,000 per game.

If the non-Old Firm ‘lower value’ SPFL matches are taken at this benchmark, even those that include Celtic or Rangers, and then are added to the ‘market value’ of the Old Firm fixtures at £7.5m each, then the SPFL could theoretically argue their product is worth up to £52.4m a season.

While it is widely agreed such a massive jump in revenue would be optimistic, by accepting a deal without formally taking the rights to market, the SPFL scuppered any chance of testing the theory.

Martin Ross, Global News Editor of Sport Business and an expert on media rights, agrees that the unusual decision not to conduct a full tender process may have led to the SPFL being unable to attract higher broadcast revenues.

“It’s not unheard of, but usually with a league the size of the SPFL, they would go to market with a tender, with a blind auction,” Ross said.

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“If you look at what the EFL are doing at the moment, what they have had is a request for proposals to test the market, and they will now go back soon with a full invitation to tender, where broadcasters will put in blind bids.

“I was initially pretty disappointed that there wasn’t a tender. I wouldn’t compare this situation with the Champions League, but the agency that sold those rights has just had their most competitive tender in the UK broadcast market in some time.

“That’s at a very elite level, but there was certainly competition lining up in the market. You look at Viaplay’s takeover of Premier Sports, Warner Bros/Discovery who have set up their venture with BT Sport.

“Looking at this set of rights, for somebody like them it would have been an ideal addition for them. “How that translates into what they would have bid is the great unknown I suppose.”

A spokesperson for the SPFL refuted such claims, though, stating: “In 2022, amidst huge worldwide economic uncertainty, we were delighted to announce a four-season extension of our exclusive live domestic broadcast deal with Europe’s leading sports broadcaster, Sky Sports.

“That extension involved a substantial increase in the value to be paid by Sky. At the same time, Sky agreed that SPFL Clubs would, for the first time, be allowed to sell Pay Per View rights for to up to five home games per season. This has created a new, valuable and additional income stream for our clubs.

“That the hard-headed and experienced business people running 41 out of our 42 clubs agreed a change to SPFL Rules to allow this deal to be approved speaks for itself.

“However, this outstanding result was achieved only after a huge amount of market testing and intelligence gathering, and months of detailed negotiations with Sky.

“We tested the market fully in 2022 before awarding the rights to Sky Sports and it is completely incorrect to claim otherwise.”