TV deal looks to be on right wavelength

CONTRACTS will be signed with Sky and ESPN to show 65 games per season from the SPL and Third Division if Rangers' membership of the SFA is approved later today.

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Ally has had a year to forget
Ally has had a year to forget

Sky will have the rights to 30 games – starting with Celtic against Aberdeen at Parkhead next Saturday – and then Rangers' opening Third Division match away at Peterhead on August 11.

ESPN would have 35 live games and the first would be Dundee United versus Hibernian a week on Sunday.

SportTimes believes that a deal involving the SPL, SFL and both of the broadcasters – which includes rights for 15 of Rangers' league games per season – will preserve most of the existing £16 million-a-season deal for the current campaign. That will spare top flight clubs from the most severe repercussions some had feared from at least three years without the Ibrox club.

The television deal is agreed in principle but cannot be signed until Sevco Scotland Ltd's application for the transfer of Rangers' SFA membership is approved.

That needs to happen before the club can play its first match at Brechin City in the Ramsdens Cup on Sunday afternoon.

In theory, approval could be given at any time right up until kick-off, but practicalities and exchanges of documents essentially mean it has to be done by the close of office hours today.

However, all parties – Sevco Scotland, the oldco Rangers, the SFA, SPL and SFL – were understood to believe talks were almost there last night and that there will be a satisfactory conclusion, and the signing of contracts, later today.

Representatives from Charles Green's newco Rangers regime held further negotiations with SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster yesterday.

A major obstacle in the way of an agreement has been the SPL's view that accepting any potential punishment from its ongoing investigation into undisclosed payments to players via Employement Benefit Trusts – alleged to have happened over several years ago at the oldco Rangers – should be accepted by Sevco as a condition of membership into the SFA.

Ibrox boss Ally McCoist and some other figures at the crisis-hit club have vigorously opposed any acceptance that the club could be stripped of some of their league titles if a guilty verdict is returned against them.

BBC Alba will have live coverage of Rangers' tie at Brechin and yesterday the channel was continuing to plan as though the match would go ahead.

As for the longer-term deal involving Sky and ESPN, the two companies will discuss how the SPL and Third Division coverage is shared in the weeks and months ahead.

A source at one SPL club said broadcasters still hold the power in the debate. They said: "It will be up to the broadcasters to decide how the games are carved up and how the Rangers games are divided."

Hobbies and general interest

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