The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has brought in former Southampton FC head of marketing Scott Steedman to lead a change of strategy after the governing football body failed to find a sponsor for the Scottish Premiership.
The move comes after a merger between the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League last year to form the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and a year-long search for a sponsor for the main title that has, so far, proved fruitless.
Now, with Celtic wrapping up the Premiership in March with over two months of the season to go, the SPFL has brought in Steedman as commercial director to try and turn the league’s fortunes around.
Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPFL, told The Drum: “Rather than selling an inventory based sponsorship we are presenting brands with an integrated inventory and marketing led proposition that can fit their objectives.
“Leading this process is our recently appointed commercial director Scott Steedman, who has both international and domestic commercial and brand experience.”
Steedman joined Southampton FC in 2010 as head of sales and marketing and stayed at the club for a year. Also in 2010, he was appointed to the board of Merchant Soul, a Glasgow-based agency specialising in sponsorships consultancy.
In 2011, he became external venue operations and broadcasts manager at UEFA and in 2012 became a director of Progress Sponsorship & Communications, another Glasgow-based agency specialising in sponsorship and sport.
Despite the lack of commercial interest in Scottish football’s top league, Doncaster added that the game in Scotland had “in general” turned a corner and said the SPFL would still meet the financial guarantees made to clubs at the beginning of the season.
“Looking ahead, with the first full season of having all 42 member clubs under the single banner of the SPFL almost complete, we believe that clubs and Scottish football in general has turned a corner,” he said.
“The reality for season 2013/14 is that financially we set an expectation with the clubs that we’d be distributing £18m to them and we expect to achieve that, even in the absence of a title sponsor.”
Scottish football has undergone a turbulent phase following the financial collapse of one of its two largest teams, Rangers, in 2012, which was followed by the entry of a ‘newco’ to the fourth tier of the game last year following the liquidation of the former company to work its way through the leagues.
The Drum contacted one Scottish club sponsor, who has published the content of a letter sent to Scottish football’s governing body online, on the verge of ending a 20-year-long commitment to the game in Scotland because of the turmoil. The sponsor, who has invested a six figure sum in that time, submitted the letter to Scottish Football Assocation (SFA) chief executive Stewart Regan in March asking for answers on the recent crisis in the game and seeking assurances of transparency.
Among the issues raised in the letter were the mysterious ‘Charlotte Fakes’ Twitter account, which became the subject of a police investigation last year when an avalanche of internal emails and even audio recordings between senior figures involved in the collapse of Rangers were leaked to the public.
The material was recently ruled admissible as evidence by a London court in an ongoing case connected to former Rangers owner Craig Whyte.
The sponsor also questioned the SFA’s handling of the financial collapse of Rangers and the entry of the new company – which bought the assets of Rangers and changed its name - into the bottom tier of Scottish football at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Further questions were raised about the SFA’s own president, Campbell Ogilvie, who admitted in 2012 that he had received £95,000 through Rangers’ controversial EBT tax scheme during his time at Rangers. Ogilvie spent 27 years in total at the club and served as general secretary and director. He left in 2005 and became SFA president in 2011 after a four-year stint as vice-president.
Within the sponsor’s letter, he said: “As a businessman I fully understand the commercial imperatives that will have influenced the way the SFA approached dealing with the consequences of RFC’s [Rangers] demise.
“However I fear that the past and ongoing damage being done to the integrity of the sport, as a result of perceived or actual rule bending or breaking, to accommodate RFC/TRFC, will cause commercial damage that will manifest itself over the longer term. Indeed my reservations about further investment, that fellow sponsors may share, will manifest itself as a commercial cost if the SFA do not act quickly to address the concerns articulated by the questions I have asked.”
When approached by The Drum, the SFA refused to comment on the letter and it is understood that the sponsor has not yet received a response.