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Ralph Topping has a brassneck to criticise the BBC

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Scottish football fans know that they are being short changed by clubs, sponsors, broadcasters and governing bodies alike, but when one of these influential individuals in the game stands up to criticise the other it is sheer hypocrisy.

SPFL chairman Ralph Topping is that individual. He claims that the BBC has ‘badly short-changed’ and ‘damaged’ Scottish football.

Topping said: “The days of the BBC selling Scottish football short are drawing to a close. There is an overwhelming argument that the public money spent by the BBC on the UK’s national game should be more evenly split.

“There is no doubt that the English Premier League is one of the most powerful leagues in the world, and the BBC is paying £68 million per annum over the next three years for its slice of that particular cake, but Scottish football will no longer be satisfied with the crumbs off the table.

“Compared to England, Scots contribute a tenth of the licence fee, yet at less than £1 million for TV highlights, our BBC deal is only 1/60th of what the BBC pays to the English Premier League – and that doesn’t include the money they also pay to the English Football League for highlights. The BBC is damaging the game in Scotland and these double standards are indefensible for a publicly-funded broadcaster.

“It’s a sad reflection of the BBC’s approach to its investment in Scottish football that Gary Lineker’s salary is DOUBLE the amount the BBC pays for TV highlights of over 250 SPFL games each year.

“In the current deal, the BBC has almost halved the amount they previously spent on Scottish football. There comes a point where you have to say ‘enough is enough’ and we’ve reached it.

“Fans, clubs, politicians and the Scottish public recognise that, as our national broadcaster, the BBC has a duty to do the right thing.

“The facts could not be clearer – for far too long the BBC has been discriminating against Scottish football and it’s time for the corporation to increase its contribution to the sport in Scotland to properly reflect what our country contributes to the licence fee.

“There is one more season left on our current deal with the BBC and we’re determined that any new deal far better reflects the importance of the game in Scotland and the hundreds of millions the corporation receives from Scottish licence fee payers every year.”

We can all agree that Scottish Football is not receiving the greatest of coverage by any broadcaster and the BBC Scotland product ‘Sportscene’ is a poor imitation of past shows covering our game, but I have to say that Ralph Topping has a bloody cheek to target BBC Scotland claiming they are short changing and damaging Scottish football.

Where are his comments regarding Sky Sports or BT Sport and how much they pay for the rights to Scottish football?

scottishcup

This is a man who was chief executive of William Hill up until July 2014. The bookmakers who sponsor the Scottish Cup. Now Ralph how much did William Hill pay to sponsor the Scottish Cup over a three year period starting in 2011 under your stewardship?

.The princely sum of £3 million for a three year deal.

How would you describe that deal Ralph? Well you were nowhere to be seen when the deal was rolled out in front of the assembled media to much fanfare.

Company chairman Gareth Davis, who faced the media on William Hill’s behalf, said: “It seems fitting for the most established and biggest bookmaker in Scotland to be attached to the oldest association trophy in world football and we at William Hill consider it an honour to be able to put our name to the Scottish Cup.”

William Hill – still under Topping’s stewardship – extended their deal to sponsor the Scottish Cup in 2013 for a further two years, despite the existing deal still having with a year still to run.

Topping again was posted missing as Chief Marketing Officer Kristof Fahy, stood in front of the cameras, commenting: “It’s a great honour for us to be associated with the Scottish Cup and we’re delighted to be in a position to extend our relationship with the oldest association trophy in world football. We’re very excited about this new deal and look forward to working with the fans, clubs and the Scottish FA to make this great competition even bigger and better over the coming years.”

So how much was this new deal worth Ralph? Surely not another £1 million per year deal?

At the time of the new deal being announced, Stewart Regan, Scottish FA Chief Executive, said: “We have been absolutely delighted with the partnership with William Hill and especially pleased that they have today reaffirmed their commitment to Scottish football by extending their contract as title sponsor of the Scottish Cup.

“It is fair to say it has been a partnership that has benefited the whole game and provided a real boost in profile and entertainment to our cup competition. In a tough economic climate for Scottish football, it is reassuring that one of the United Kingdom’s most established brand names have demonstrated that they are passionate and imaginative supporter and champion of our game.”

Surely £1 million per year for one of the oldest club cup competitions in the world is short changing Scottish football?

How much did William Hill make off the back of such a sponsorship? I can’t see it being anywhere near the £1million mark each year.

Try adding a few zeros.

BBC Scotland, in my opinion, had every right to hit back at Topping over his comments in their statement.

They said: “The SPFL welcomed the current rights agreement with the BBC and other broadcasters when it was announced – Neil Doncaster saying it was great news for fans of Scottish football. When we negotiate for sports rights our priority is to get value for money for the licence fee payer.

“Negotiation is two-way: the SPFL come to the table with their wishes and we decide on how much we can reasonably spend on the rights package on offer.

“Supporters in Scotland tell us they enjoy watching highlights programmes of both the Scottish Premiership and the English Premier League and we don’t believe that audiences in Scotland are being short-changed. We have a long-standing relationship with football’s governing bodies in Scotland and we believe our involvement has a positive impact on the appreciation of the game in this country.”

Look at this year’s League Cup competition. It failed to secure a sponsor until the semi final stages when QTS Group announced they would be sponsoring the cup competition’s latter stages to the tune of £100,000.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, at the time, heralded it: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with QTS, an ambitious and growing Scottish business with a proud history of successful sport sponsorship – a perfect fit for the competition.

“With two cracking Scottish League Cup semi-finals in the New Year, as well as the final in March, everyone at the SPFL is looking forward to working with QTS to maximise the profile of both the competition and of the business and to bring excitement to fans of the clubs and Scottish football.”

What a great deal that was £100,000 for the SPFL. Doesn’t even cover half of Doncaster’s annual salary plus bonuses.

So if anyone is damaging and short changing Scottish football surely it is the SPFL themselves?

When you have a chief executive peddling negative statements about our game and our top flight, then that is far more damaging than the highlights broadcaster not paying top dollar for the rights compared to the English highlights package.

A deal that the SPFL as an organisation – as the Beeb stated – agreed too.

No one forced the SPFL to agree to the BBC’s offer and yet it is the BBC’s fault that the Scottish game is being short-changed? Seriously?

When we have a chief executive being paid £200,000 a year to manage what is in effect a basket case of an organisation from top to bottom, you have to question who really are short changing Scottish football?

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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