“Today’s announcement is the result of significant investment of energy and effort and further strengthens our optimism about the future health of the game in Scotland.
“With all that positivity comes an opportunity to tell the story of a modern, engaging and exciting Scottish football environment and we look forward to doing just that with all our partners including new title sponsor Ladbrokes.” – Neil Doncaster (13 May 2015)
Well knock me down with an avalanche of empty Buckie bottles!
Neil Doncaster IS Mr Positivity!
But before you get carried away by the tidal wave of excitable guff, take a minute to read back those quotes from the SPFL’s announcement that it (finally) has a sponsor.
Think about them carefully…
“energy and effort”
“further strengthens our optimism”
“a modern, engaging and exciting Scottish football environment”
I’m sorry, but where has this sunny rhetoric suddenly come from? It tells you all you need to know that it seems surprising to see a senior football administrator talking about our game in such an upbeat fashion.
Remember the “Slow lingering death“?
Remember Turnbull Hutton’s account of the dire scenarios that were presented to clubs when senior administrators tried to gerrymander Sevco into the higher divisions?
Remember how the league rolled over and ended up contractually bound to pay BT Sport up to £250,000 a season to show Sevco games in lower league venues? Now there’s an organisation that seems confident in its product!
Remember talk about the impact of “uncertainty” on the game? [Great advertising, Neil!]
Clearly securing a sponsor is good news, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge that.
But why oh why did it take so long?
Certainly, the demise of Rangers changed the ‘traditional’ dynamic of Scottish Football (for the better as far as I am concerned) and destroyed the ‘Old Firm product’ that our administrators possibly believed to be the only thing worth selling to broadcasters.
And the English Premier League behemoth certainly casts a shadow over our game. and doubtless affects the way sponsors view it.
But Scottish Football isn’t the English Premier League, and our game isn’t Celtic v Rangers.
There is a history and heritage to our domestic game that few countries can match. There are great rivalries, a large fan base, entertaining stories and more controversy that you can shake a stick at.
And – on occasion – some pretty decent football too!
In short – it’s got character, and drama. In spades.
If all that doesn’t give you a basis upon which to enthuse about the game and sell it to potential sponsors, I don’t know what will.
Can anyone honestly recall our senior administrators enthusiastically championing the Scottish game?
Me neither. And the horrifying thing is that it should be at the core of their job. Not an add-on or a part-time activity. I want to see them living and breathing positivity.
Even Mr Doncaster himself has previously acknowledged the need to do better in this regard:
Of course the game has difficulties to overcome, and administrators and clubs should be working damn hard to resolve them. But they can surely do that without wearing a sour face…
Our newly-sponsored game has an enormous amount to shout about. It was nice to hear Mr Doncaster shouting today. It felt like too little, too late, but it was welcome. Please keep shouting, Neil…
You too, Mr Regan…