By G.A.Ponsonby
Unionist politicians have used the demise of Rangers Football Club in order to attack Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond’s relationship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
Statements released on Saturday evening by Labour and Conservative MSPs called on Mr Salmond to "phone his pal" and tap up "his best buddy" after concerns were raised over future TV contracts following newco Rangers re-admission to SFL Division 3.

The statements from Labour MSP Michael McMahon and Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw were a reference to Mr Salmond’s recent acknowledgement that he had agreed to back Mr Murdoch’s company News Corp’s in its bid for control of BSkyB, as it meant benefitting the Scottish economy.

Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, said: "If Mr Murdoch is available to the First Minister and the First Minister believes that the deal could be in trouble, why shouldn’t he pick up the phone to his pal?  He has picked up the phone on behalf of other people."

Jackson Carlaw, Conservative deputy leader, said: "Alex Salmond likes tapping up his best buddy Rupert Murdoch on behalf of Scottish jobs.  Well, perhaps he should be doing the same in this instance, to protect the thousands of people who are either directly or indirectly employed thanks to football in Scotland."

According to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: “The First Minister was told he should call in favours from Murdoch to safeguard Scottish clubs that rely on the cash provided by the broadcasting company, which is part-owned by the Australian mogul.”

A spokesman for the First Mnister said: “Once the football authorities finally decide on their course of action and show a willingness for reconstruction and reform, the Scottish Government stands ready to use influence to secure the best deals from sponsors.”

He added: “The First Minister is amused that Labour MSPs are now demanding that he has meetings with Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB.  However the First Minister will always represent the Scottish 

The SPL will hold its own emergency talks with Sky within the next 24 hours to seek clarity over the £16 million-per-season deal currently in place.

There have been concerns that the payments might be reduced with the former Glasgow giants missing from the SPL and no Old Firm league fixtures for at least three years.

However, a former executive producer of both Sky and Setanta's Scottish football coverage, Colin Davidson, says he believes the broadcaster will stay with Scottish football but that the SPL will have to convince the broadcasting giant.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, 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."

Speculation over the TV contract follows claims that a last ditch effort aimed at preventing any new Rangers from having to start life in Division three are underway.

According to the Guardian newspaper, "Scotland's football authorities are to enter a desperate race against time to oversee a league reconstruction model aimed at preventing Rangers from starting next season in the Third Division.". 

The move would see the creation of a so called SPL 2.  The SPL is due to meet on Monday, when the concept of an "SPL 2" is set to be discussed.

The controversial plan follows claims by at least two SPL clubs of significant ramifications for the game following Friday's SFL vote which saw the newco granted permisison to re-enter the Scottish league system in the third division.

Both Inverness and St Mirren have issued statements claiming Friday's vote will lead to job losses and maybe even clubs going out of business.  However, at least one other club, Dundee United, has said it does not support any moves to create an SPL 2.

Dundee United's statement read: "For the avoidance of doubt, following yesterday's vote, the club would not support any counter proposals for the formation of SPL 2 or regarding any other route for The Rangers Football Club to join the SPL."

It added: "Now is the time for everyone to be united as one and we ask our supporters to stand alongside us as we face the challenges ahead."

Third Division Clyde have even expressed a belief that the newco won't be in the third division at the start of next season.

A statement on the club's website read: "We reported prior to the vote that Sevco Scotland Ltd will not be playing in the Third Division in the coming season.  Nothing heard altered that opinion, in fact, it strengthened it.

"We were asked to respect the confidentiality of those presenting as only that agreement would allow them to be as candid as they were.

"We cannot therefore share what was said, however Mr Green left the SFL member clubs in no doubt about what he had been told by the SFA."

It added: "Sadly for our game, this saga is not over, teams cannot plan and that includes Rangers, who may yet be denied the opportunity to play football in SFL3 because it suits the interests of others."

However it has also emerged that under fire SFA boss, Stewart Regan, was behind secret briefings to newco owner Charles Green prior to Friday’s SFL vote.

According to the Scottish Sun on Sunday, Mr Regan had predicted the newco would be allowed to enter Division One and had also indicated his view that Dundee should take the place of the Ibrox club in the SPL, despite the matter not scheduled for discussion until tomorrow – with both Dundee and Dunfermline vying for the vacancy.

In a leaked email, Mr Regan wrote of his confidence that Division One would be the league chosen by SFL clubs: “Could Rod Petrie please brief Charles Green confidentially on the discussions from a Scottish FA perspective so that there are ‘no surprises’ and there is a general acceptance of the plan plus all of the other conditions discussed e.g. transfer embargo, fines, repayment of football debt, waiving rights to legal challenge, acceptance of relegation and so on.”

The paper claims that Regan declared to other officials: “The Rangers Football Club will be relegated (sic) to the 1st Division of the SFL with immediate effect and will be replaced in the SPL by Dundee FC.”


# Marga B 2012-07-15 01:43
What's this in the Guardian?

Formation of SPL2 could save Rangers newco from life in Third Division

• Clubs would be offered financial incentives to leave SFL
• Majority of clubs voted against Rangers entering First Division
# cuckooshoe 2012-07-15 01:48
Wonder why their first thought was Sky and not the BBC? They can bid to show live Scottish matches like they do England? The Unionist Parties made a big deal of the BBC as one of the benefits of Union when they launched their 'Better Together' campaign..
# SEUMAS31 2012-07-15 06:32
The infantile behaviour of the so called "opposition" parties in Scotland never fails to amaze.
# gus1940 2012-07-15 07:17
Yes - anything to detract from the fact that they seem to find it impossible to come up with a single good reason why Scotland should remain in the Union.
# Blanco 2012-07-15 07:38
The thought that Michael McMahon would ever do anything to benefit Rangers is laughable.
# BeltaneFire 2012-07-15 07:52
The recent demise of Glasgow Rangers and the consequential fall-out of them no longer playing in the SPL has nothing to do with politics, but has occurred because Rangers broke the rules. The Government is not responsible for Ranger's skullduggery. Simple!

Whatever happens from here on is a matter for the footballing authorities, and possibly the police.

Rangers,in its previous form, no longer exists, so the successor club has no right to preferential treatment, irrespective of the money involved. The integrity of the sport is what matters now, and Scottish football will have to settle to a realistic position.

As for Labour and the Tories? Little people!
# hiorta 2012-07-15 08:25
Absolutely, Beltanefire.
These questions should properly be directed to those officials who were responsible for the governance of the Govan club during its massive decline.
# Early Ball 2012-07-15 08:59
I have said it before and will say it again Alex Salmond should keep out of this. I was dismayed to hear a clip from him with his take on the decision. Football is too tribal.

When he spoke on the subject before he said similar things to what Margaret Curran and others had said. As soon as he put his head above the parapet all sides went for him.

I saw a table on another site where it laid out average attendances in European countries and their respective TV deals. The Scottish TV deal was woefully short of the norm.

Where they could get involved is question of how much money the BBC spend on Scottish Football as opposed to English football.
# Ready to Start 2012-07-15 09:00
These MPs should be asking their friends at the BBC why they are ripping off Scottish licence fee payers?

In Norway their domestic league football rights have been sold for £44 million a year. Why is Norway so much better off?

Interesting article on Scottish football TV rights in Herald last week

The BBC recently paid £180 million to renew the Match Of The Day highlights programme which comes on top of £15 million a year to broadcast highlights of lower English league games and an undisclosed sum for 10 Live English Championship games a season as part of a £265 million deal.

Contrast this with their failure to even attempt to bid for live Scottish Premier League football thus reducing the sum, £13 million a year, Sky needed to bid to secure the rights.

Scotland must have the only professional football league in the world that the "national" TV company is not prepared to support.

And given recent supporter Arab spring Sky should be warned off a backlash of cancelled subscriptions if they cut back on their paltry support for Scottish football.
# tartanfever 2012-07-15 09:25
Hi RTS, I posted this yesterday as a response to your point, it gives a little more detail on the tv money:

the real scandal is with the BBC, not Sky
(sorry to post the same post twice mods, but it seems pretty relevant to this discussion)

I did a little digging around as well on the tv money figures, and there is no doubt our game is underfunded.

During all of Friday's events the most ridiculous reporter of all was the BBC's James Cook. Reporting repeatedly on the BBC News Channel, the news bulletins on BBC 1, BBC1 Scotland and so on. All he talked about was the financial doom and gloom that would descend upon Scottish football. His question was repeated to countless people throughout the day 'What about the tv money?' or 'What will happen to the sponsorship and the tv money ?'. He was like a stuck record.

Of course, he shouldn't have been directing the question to the Scottish football authorities, he should have been asking it to his own chiefs at the BBC, as it is the BBC deal that has finished whilst the Sky deal still has one year to run. (Sky have already announced that they are not walking away and will honour their contract, it is the BBC that are being more cagey.)

Your figures are correct, the BBC has just signed a new three year deal for highlights of the English Premier League (EPL) at £60m a year.

In Scotland the deal with the SPL has currently just expired. We are waiting to hear about a new deal. What we do know is that the BBC were paying the SPL £3m a year for highlights in the last 3 year deal.

Thats very low. As the BBC is a publicly funded body from licence fee money spread across the whole of the UK, lets use the Barnett formula see just how unequal this is.

EPL per year £60m

SPL per year £3m

Barnett consequential at 8.6% of £60m = £5.16m

So the BBC has underfunded Scottish football to the tune of £2.16m per year.

As you point out, the BBC also fund the Championship League in England and various cup games, which, when added to the figures above, only adds insult to injury about our poor sponsorship deal.

Unfortunately, there's worse to come. As I mentioned, the BBC deal has currently expired, and as far as I know, no new deal has been put forward. They have obviously been waiting to see what has happened with newco until they make a decision. This is backed up by the BBC's own inimitable Business editor, your friend and mine, Mr Douglas Fraser, as far back as February, when he reported:

The BBC has the national rights package for radio commentary, online and TV highlights, and the uncertainty over Rangers' future puts the corporation in a stronger negotiating position for next season's deal.

There's no doubt from this the BBC will be looking to reduce further it's sponsorship of the SPL.

The thing that annoys me most is the BBC'c decision, on behalf of the people of Scotland, that we would prefer to watch English football.

On a Saturday night, prime time, we get Match of the Day for an hour or so, followed by the Football League show for another hour. Two hours of prime time television beamed across the whole of the UK with no regional opt out. Our own Sportscene is now relegated to the graveyard shift on a Sunday night about 10.30pm. Thanks for giving us the option BBC. (In years gone past, we would have Sportscene on Saturday night with Archie McP, and at the end of the show we would cross to London to catch the rest of MOTD)

The BBC revamped the old English football first division a few years ago with it's slick new programme coverage and sponsorship, spending tens of millions getting that league on the map and promoting it heavily. Did the BBC not think that maybe, just maybe, we in Scotland may have liked to have seen a little bit more funding come our way ?

Remember, we send £300m down to the BBC in London every year, whilst receiving a pittance in return of less than £100m.

So this is the real tv sponsorship scandal that should have been reported by the BBC's James Cook. During the press conference it should have been role reversal with the heads of Scottish football asking him ' where's the tv money ?'
# Ready to Start 2012-07-15 10:43
Good points tartan fever.

We should be embarrassing BBC and Sky in the tabloid newspapers and mobilising supporter power to cancel Sky subscriptions if they seek to reduce their meagre payment for TV rights.

Messrs Doncaster and Regan should resign due to agreeing to a deal whereby if one team gets relegated the TV rights are null and void.
# daveniz 2012-07-15 10:58
I hate to break but there will never be an old firm game again unless the old rangers somehow rises from the dead we need to remember even though its called rangers its not rangers It's a newco! and bottom is of division 3 is the best outcome but I think they should have been put in a bidding process with Irvine meadow, Spartans etc. for the vacant spot after old rangers went bust they broke the rules, didn't pay taxes etc the newco shouldn't be allowed special treatment especially when they are starting again debt free if they got into the 1st division it be a shambles what would stop any club in the spl from doing the same thing knowing they would only drop 1 division imagine it dunfermline at the bottom of the spl last season knowing they don't have a chance of staying up having 2 options get relegated to division 1 with debt or liquidate and be debt free in division 1 and you Have to think all the teams in the sfl would start to get angry that teams can go bust start new and debt free and still be put in front of them and possibly denying them a promotion say rangers did get into division 1 and got promoted the 2nd placed team would feel cheated that they could have been in the spl had it not been for rangers being placed in the league! the spl will be better next season when Celtic won't have the cushion of rangers beating a team to keep them top of the league for example hearts would have over taken Celtic last season had it not been for a loss to rangers! stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
# CharlieObrien 2012-07-15 14:13
Who has the solution or an idea about how to spike the BBC?I think it must be the Ombudsman who must deal with them,I'm not able to do much but I am willing to go along with with whatever we can do!
# call me dave 2012-07-15 15:07

I heard a few moments ago on the BBC Scottish golf coverage tv by a woman commentator when 'Warren' (a scottish golfer - leader by 2 strokes and 5 to play)

" I wonder if he (Mr Salmond) will have the same effect on him (Warren) as he did last week when he went to see Andy Murray"

Well it was only a joke! - - wasn't it?

Anyhow he's still doing OK.
both 'Warren' and the 'First Eck'
# Ready to Start 2012-07-15 17:30
Quoting call me dave:

I heard a few moments ago on the BBC Scottish golf coverage tv by a woman commentator when 'Warren' (a scottish golfer - leader by 2 strokes and 5 to play)

" I wonder if he (Mr Salmond) will have the same effect on him (Warren) as he did last week when he went to see Andy Murray"

Well it was only a joke! - - wasn't it?

Anyhow he's still doing OK.
both 'Warren' and the 'First Eck'

I am told that BBC also cut out the trophy presentation by Alex Salmond.... is this true?
# brusque 2012-07-15 15:32
It makes me laugh out loud! great joke, shame it was Gordon Brown who became known as "Jonah Brown" when everything he touched turned to the proverbial.

Something has to be done about the BBC, and soon! Sally Magneson's smirk is doing my head in. And Jackie Bird can barely conceal her contempt for the current Scottish Government.
# Roll_On_2011 2012-07-15 15:47
Aye Ed Miliband’s brave stand against the evil Murdoch Empire.
# sneckedagain 2012-07-15 17:54

Thank you. Scotland is the only country in the world which has the football of another nation given preference over its own football.
Our national broadcaster is undermining our national game

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