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BT Sport close to SPFL rights fee compensation deal

Aberdeen face Rangers during Ladbrokes Premiership match at Pittodrie Stadium on December 4, 2019 (Photo by Scott Baxter/Getty Images)

The Scottish Professional Football League is in the process of finalising a rights fee compensation agreement with BT Sport for matches that the UK pay-television broadcaster was not able to show after the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the 2019-20 Scottish season.

BT Sport has been engaged in negotiations with the league since the SPFL clubs voted on May 18 to terminate the top-tier Scottish Premiership season. This followed an earlier vote to end the lower-league Championship, League One and League Two campaigns.

The proposed compromise deal with BT is worth just under £2.5m (€2.8m/$3.1m), according to The Times. An agreement with BBC Scotland, the public-service broadcaster that holds highlights rights, has not yet been announced.

An accord with the telecoms operator would follow a recent agreement struck by the SPFL with pay-television broadcaster Sky. Both BT and Sky had fulfilled their final rights payment for the 2019-20 season.

The SPFL-Sky settlement is thought to entail an average of £300,000 per season being paid back to the broadcaster over five years. Within that agreement, Sky has given its backing to clubs to live-stream their home matches to fans when the 2020-21 season begins behind closed doors.

A dossier compiled by Premiership side Rangers that challenged the SPFL’s handling of the vote process to end the 2019-20 season claimed that the league was facing a maximum of £10m in compensation to be paid to broadcasters and sponsors, including outgoing title sponsor Ladbrokes. The dossier was lodged with the SPFL before any compromise deals were agreed with rights-holding broadcasters.

There were eight full match weeks still to be completed when the Scottish Premiership season was terminated with league positions decided upon an average points-per-game basis. BT Sport was also set to show the season-ending play-offs but has lost the SPFL rights from next season onwards.

Sky’s exclusive five-year contract from 2020-21 to 2024-25 is worth around £26m per season and includes live rights to 48 matches per season. The SPFL recently rejected reports that Sky had been awarded rights to extra matches next season as part of its rights fee compensation agreement.

BT was comfortably defeated by Sky during the rights auction held in late 2018.