Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston expects the Scottish Premier League to retain the bulk of its broadcasting income this season with ESPN set to follow Sky Sports in confirming their renewed commitment.
Sky Sports yesterday announced they would continue showing SPL games for at least five more years despite concerns that the loss of Rangers would herald the end of broadcasting deals.
Scottish Football League clubs were told in a presentation by the football authorities in June that the SPL broadcasting value could be as low as £3million a year if the new Rangers were voted into the Irn-Bru Third Division.
But those fears appear to have been largely allayed. Sky and ESPN had a year to run on their existing £13million annual contract but were due to sign a £16million deal this summer.
The SPL had to pay the SFL for rights to Rangers games, which will also be shown on Sky, but the value of the existing deal looks to have been retained.
Johnston, whose club announced a six-figure sponsorship deal with Strathaven-based engineering form QTS today, said: “The good news for Kilmarnock is made even better by the news that Sky are going to carry on their five-year deal and I believe ESPN are going to carry on with their planned sponsorship as well.
“This should all be voted on at a meeting of SPL clubs on Friday and Dundee will formally become SPL members.”
Johnston estimates the loss of two Rangers games will cost his club £300,000 but he does not expect a major loss in SPL revenue.
“There have been no announcements by the SPL on figures and details and hopefully that will be clarified on Friday but it is my understanding there will not be any significant reduction in broadcasting contract revenues,” he said.
The SPL have made no comment on the matter, but they today announced four further fixture changes that pave the way for games to be televised.
Sky will show Celtic’s SPL opener against Aberdeen on Saturday while the Edinburgh derby looks set to be televised on August 12 after being put back a day.
The other games are Celtic’s visit to Ross County on August 18, the Dundee derby, which has been moved to August 19, and Celtic’s trip to Inverness on August 25.
The absence of Rangers could spark changes to the voting structure of the SPL, specifically an end to the requirement for an 11-1 vote on major change, and possibly more equitable distribution of wealth.
However, Johnston said: “That’s always been a subject close to my heart but it’s not on the agenda for Friday.
“Time will tell whether there is any change in that but at the moment we are looking to get the broadcasting contracts approved.
“I think everyone needs time to recover from what’s been happening in the last few months and move on. We need to get supporters in to stadia, sell sponsorship and hospitality.”
Johnston was the only club representative not to reject the Rangers newco’s application for SPL membership on July 4 and he has faced calls to stand down from Killie fans who believe he isolated the club from the majority viewpoint.
Johnston, whose club is about £10million in debt, said: “There were very substantial reasons whey I abstained and unfortunately some of those reasons I can’t put in the public domain.
“But I felt and I still believe it was the right thing to do.
“I think it was the wrong time to take that vote and it put the SPL into a very difficult position because effectively we handed the whole issue of what would happen to Rangers over to the SFL clubs, and we all know how that turned out.
“As we speak today we are looking at good news on the Sky/ESPN contract but it could equally have been a totally different story.
“Nobody knew what the outcome of that decision would be and I didn’t think it was the right time to have a vote, never mind what the outcome would be.
“I can understand why Kilmarnock supporters, a large number of them, were unhappy with what I did and they have certainly expressed that unhappiness.
“But hopefully now we can all put that behind us, work together and get behind the team.”