Media, Scottish Football, SPFL

The Doncaster Benchmark

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Neil Doncaster appears to have so much ‘front’ that The Clumpany sometimes wonders if he is in face a stately home in disguise.

UEFA (presumably taking a break from being self-absorbed) has published its ‘Seventh Club Licensing Benchmarking Report’. According to STV, the report “tackles issues such as the SPFL’s standing with regards to ticket prices, broadcast deals, the financial performance of clubs and the slide in Scotland’s coefficient in European competition”.

And lo! Mr Doncaster has popped up to declare some triumphs for Scottish Football…

Neil Doncaster: Report shows Scottish clubs amongst best run in Europe

The above article is one of several that STV have produced on the UEFA report. They are a good read and STV should be commended for the coverage.

[Yes that was a compliment for the media. If you are reading this in STV Towers, give yourselves a pat on the back. And now get back to looking for a copy of the Five-Way Agreement…].

As you might have expected, Mr Doncaster delivers the sort of unwitting comedy that can only come from someone who hasn’t had their self-awareness bypass reversed. 😉

Here are some selected quotes from the above STV article…

“When I am speaking with other leagues around the world, the SPFL and its clubs are hugely respected. I do think that we are often tougher on ourselves than is fair and that SPFL clubs are amongst some of the very best run clubs in Europe.”

“Scottish football’s attendances are holding up well. Numbers are up this season and are a reflection of the unrivaled passion for the game in this country. This gives us confidence for the future of the game in Scotland, as this passion ultimately drives most of the constituent parts of the revenue mix.”

“Any comparison of broadcast deals to those in England, Germany, Spain, Italy or France is an unfair and unhelpful one – those countries have huge populations and the world’s very best players”

“But when compared to other leagues around Europe, Scotland performs well. The passion, drama and excitement for which Scottish football has long been renowned around the world should continue to support interest in, and the value of, our broadcast rights.”

And when commenting on the average net profitability of Premiership sides being amongst the highest in Europe at 7.9%, Mr Doncaster said:

“It is also a reflection on the league’s success in growing sponsorship and broadcast revenues, which in turn means higher fees being paid to clubs.”

Where do you even begin in responding to all this upbeat guff?

I will simply say the following

  • “Shedding debt”
  • Armageddon
  • Slow lingering death
  • Lack of sponsorship
  • Derisory TV deals
  • Paying Sky to show games

You know the story behind each of these bullet points, and I suspect you may therefore view Mr Doncaster’s comments today as ‘a bit disingenuous’… 

It is also worth remembering the comments of Barry Hearn at last year’s SFA Convention where he tore a strip off Scottish Football’s administrators over their shortcomings, and remarked 

“I am seeing too much self-pity. That’s what the world thinks of Scottish football and that should be the most worrying aspect. Be proud of yourself. Don’t be a secret. If you don’t believe in yourself how can other people believe in you? In my view you have done nowhere near enough”.

[Incidentally Mr Doncaster apparently wasn’t in the room during Hearn’s speech…] 

Even Mr Doncaster’s explanation of why Scottish fans pay, on average, the fifth highest per head to watch Premiership games in Europe sounded a bit unconvincing.

“Scottish clubs invest a great deal of money in ensuring that the in-stadium experience is safe, enjoyable and suitable for a family audience”.

Our clubs are also continually using a number of different methods and introducing offers to help lower the costs of attending games and strike the best possible balance.”

“The most recent research shows ticket prices either being frozen or falling and attendances on the increase so things are currently moving in the right direction.”

Whether you buy this argument is up to you, but it came across to me like a PR line. [Like much of what Mr Doncaster says in public.]

I query whether a family (or for that matter an individual) regularly going to games in Scotland looks at their bank balance and feels that things are “moving in the right direction” in terms of ticket prices…

Sadly, while happy to bask in the positive parts of the Benchmarking report, Mr Doncaster doesn’t have anything substantial to say about one of the most eye catching elements: the calamitous decline in Scotland’s UEFA coefficient:

“Neil Doncaster: “If we are to reverse the trend, then clearly it is important that we have a number of clubs qualifying for the group stages of European competitions each season.”

And I couldn’t help wondering whether his mind might have  drifted towards Ibrox when he spoke of

“reduction in debt, which then reduces the cost of servicing that debt; and good control of costs, particularly player wages” 

‘Comfortably funded’ was the phrase Mr King used, wasn’t it?

Or was it ‘over investment’? 


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