SPFL launches new international rights process sensing 'increasing interest'
By Simon Ward
The Scottish Professional Football League has today launched a request for proposals for the international media rights to the country’s domestic soccer competitions beginning with the 2020-21 season.
The tender covers rights outside the UK and Ireland to the top-tier Ladbrokes Premiership, second-tier Ladbrokes Championship, play-offs in both divisions, the Betfred Cup, the league cup competition, and the Challenge Cup, which features teams from the lower leagues.
There is no prescribed number of seasons, but the SPFL said the RFP is “available to all international broadcasters, agencies and other potential purchasers of SPFL media rights from outside of the UK and Ireland.”
The RFP contains details of the overseas broadcast packages available from July 2020 onwards and interested parties are directed to contact the league at RFP2019@spfl.co.uk for further information.
The SPFL is seeking an international partner or partners after it cancelled a long-term deal with MP & Silva, the now defunct sports marketing agency, just weeks into the 2018-19 season, and subsequently signed a short-term agreement with the Infront agency running to the end of the 2019-20 campaign.
Despite the forced change in strategy, the league said it has still been able to secure broadcasting deals in 130 countries for the present season.
Rights to the SPFL Premiership and Betfred Cup were distributed to 167 countries in 2017-18.
MP & Silva’s 10-year international rights agreement, worth just over £2 million ($2.6 million) per season, was due to run until 2023, but was terminated by the SPFL as the agency lost various other contracts after missing instalment payments.
The company was finally wound up following a ruling by the UK High Court’s Bankruptcy Court last October.
Although Celtic are heading for a eighth successive title, the current Premiership season has been the most competitive for many years, with the arrival of former Liverpool and England star Steven Gerrard as manager of the other top Glasgow club Rangers helping to fuel interest.
Expressing hope for the coming years, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “The Ladbrokes SPFL is continuing to grow in popularity around the world year-on-year and this is reflected in our recent ground-breaking broadcast deals. We currently have contracts in place covering some 130 countries and have regular additions to the list as more and more countries have an appetite to view the best of Scottish Football. This does not include Watch & Bet specialist coverage which is also developing quickly.
“There is an increasing interest in, and appetite for, Scottish football across the globe and this RFP represents an exciting opportunity for prospective media partners to work with us from summer 2020.”
Unusually, SPFL clubs are able to offer live broadcasts of their matches internationally on their subscription channels (and without geo-blocking restrictions outside of the UK and Ireland).
Last November, pay-TV broadcaster Sky landed exclusive live rights in the UK to the Scottish Premiership for five seasons from 2020-21 onwards.
Sky presently shares rights with rival BT Sport until the end of the 2019-20 season in deals worth close to £20 million per season. Both bid for exclusive rights in the invitation to tender process, but Sky’s offer was comfortably higher (thought to be around £26 million per year).
BT has also lost coverage of the Betfred Cup from 2020-21 onwards, after Premier Sports, the subscription broadcaster, won the rights for five seasons, complementing its recent six-year Scottish Cup contract.