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Neil Doncaster has stressed that he remains comfortable with the situation where the Scottish Professional Football League is still to find a title sponsor as the season enters its first break for international matches.


The new league set-up has been in operation for more than a month, and the reconstruction was formally completed at the end of June.


The fact that the SPFL continues with no title sponsor has provoked concern in some circles. Doncaster again insisted that it is not a significant problem. He also played down yesterday the extent to which finance from a title sponsor impacts on clubs when compared to revenue brought in from broadcasting deals already in place.


The chief executive pointed out that he is content to take his time “to find the right sponsor, rather than the first one that comes along”. The recent controversy surrounding Wonga’s sponsorship of Newcastle United, which led to striker Papiss Cisse briefly threatening to refuse to wear a shirt promoting a payday lender, highlighted how an association with certain brands can lead to problems. Doncaster wants a sponsor that enhances the image of professional football in Scotland.


“It’s clearly important that we get the right sponsor rather than do something quickly,” said Doncaster, before adding that “we shouldn’t get carried away” with the notion that the financial guarantees from having a title sponsor in place would transform the Scottish game.


The deal the Clydesdale Bank struck was worth £8 million a year to the Scottish Premier League when originally signed in 2007. No figure was publicised when the contract was extended in 2010. The association between the bank and Scotland’s top flight ended last season. Irn Bru’s sponsorship of the Scottish Football League – worth in excess of £3 million over the course of the last three years – also expired earlier this summer.


“It’s certainly the current focus but we shouldn’t get carried away by the amount of money that it contributes to the game,” said Doncaster. “The vast majority of money that goes into the game through the SPFL comes through broadcast rights – something like 90-95 percent of the entire pot and all of that is secured already.


“So you are talking about something that is important, of course, but it’s not fundamental to the finances of the game.” Doncaster added that the SPFL is “flexible” when it comes to the specific details of a sponsorship deal, and whether all four leagues would need to be sold as one sponsorship package or could be separated.


“We’ll be led very much by what sponsors would want to do,” he said. “There is an attraction for sponsors in having all 42 clubs, in having one sponsorship which covers the whole of the country – but that would be led by their requirements when we talk to them.”


Doncaster insisted that securing new sponsors is not the only consideration at present. “I think it’s important that we continue to work hard on a number of different fronts, whilst remembering that we have two key roles at the SPFL,” he said. “One is to run a fair competition and the other is to commercialise that competition.


“That has been a successful commercialisation to date, largely based on broadcasting. Of course sponsorship is important and work on that will continue but it will be done when it’s done.“It must be a partner that’s fit for the game and fit for the SPFL in terms of the image that it projects. We’ve had a number of expressions of interest from a number of different parties, but it’s important that we have the right brand for the SPFL at such an important time in its development. That’s worth waiting for.”


Doncaster was speaking at a Murrayfield Stadium event held to encourage safe driving on Scotland’s country roads. The SPFL and the Scottish Rugby Union have joined forces to help promote a campaign spearheaded by former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard. Doncaster has welcomed the new spirit of cooperation that now exists between the SPFL and the Scottish Football Association, following Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell’s appointment to the main board of the SFA.


“The relationship between the SPFL and the SFA is a good one and I think a much better one since the reconstruction’s completion on the 27th June,” he said.


“It’s important that the SPFL is properly represented at the Scottish FA main board. We have one representative from the Professional Game Board and now Peter has been elected unopposed by the seven members of that body.


“So we are very pleased to have effective representation at the main board following [former chairman] Ralph Topping’s excellent contribution to date.


“I think there’s a genuinely collegiate atmosphere at the moment between the Scottish FA and the SPFL and that certainly makes it easier for both bodies to do the best that they can in their different spheres.”



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  • 4 weeks later...

NEIL Doncaster revealed the search for a title sponsor of the Scottish Professional Football League and League Cup continues but refused to put a timescale on it.


The SPFL chief executive was at Hampden Park yesterday to announce a three-year, six-figure deal with Irn-Bru to be the official soft drink of the SPFL. The glaring holes in the SPFL’s sponsorship portfolio, however, are the titles of the leagues and League Cup.


To that end, Doncaster is talking with various organisations but stressed the importance of getting the “right fit”.


“We remain in discussions with a number of different bodies around league title sponsorship and also League Cup sponsorship,” he said. “Those conversations will continue. It is important that we take the time to partner with the right organisation, just like AG Barr and Irn-Bru today.


“It is important not to put timescales on this. It is important to work with the various brands that we are talking to and, in time, be able to announce the right brand and the right fit for the SPFL.”


Doncaster claimed yesterday’s sponsorship announcement was another positive sign for the game. He said: “AG Barr were keen to partner with us so we are very pleased to conclude that deal and announce it today. All 42 clubs will benefit.


“We are already partners with a number of different, well-recognised brands and AG Barr are just the latest. We already have a deal with Mitre in terms of the balls, we have William Hill as our official betting partner, we have all sorts of licensing deals and we have a very good broadcast deal.


“I think today’s deal demonstrates the confidence that exists within the SPFL and within Scottish football in general.”


The agreement between AG Barr and the SPFL means that Irn-Bru will continue their long-standing association with the game, having already enjoyed six years as title sponsor of the now disbanded Scottish Football League.


Adrian Troy, head of marketing at AG Barr, admits that sponsoring the SPFL leagues and the League Cup was not on his company’s agenda.


He said: “That hasn’t been in our thinking through this process. The association with football is a very important part of our plan but it is not the only thing as a brand that we do. But this is an exciting sponsorship for AG Barr.


“We have had a long history of association with football in Scotland, most specifically though the last years with title sponsorship of the Scottish Football League, so we are very keen to keep that association going.”



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good to see him promote the official betting partner as well! good to see his moral compass is well placed and that the likes of Wonga are not appropriate but WH are to be acknowledged, particularly after the Black saga.


they're getting desperate mate. Wonder if they'll be able to meet all their financial obligations without this sponsorship

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