The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has teamed up with broadcast partner Sky Sports to offer fans of Premiership clubs a ‘virtual season ticket’ for closed doors matches held during the 2020-21 season.
The announcement today (Wednesday) comes after the SPFL declared last month that the 2019-20 Premiership season would end with immediate effect, with Celtic crowned champions and Hearts relegated to the Championship.
The season was halted on March 13 due to COVID-19 and SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said the cancellation would allow the body to pay out around £7m (€7.85m/$8.8m) in fees to help clubs stay afloat during the crisis.
The SPFL and Sky have now agreed terms that provide a framework for the top-flight of Scottish football to resume in August. Premiership clubs will create a virtual season ticket for the 2020-21 season, providing an alternative source of matchday income while social distancing measures prevent fans from attending matches. During the 2020-21 season, each Premiership club will be able to sell a package to season ticket holders to watch all home games.
From August, Sky will be the only broadcaster to offer live coverage of the SPFL with 48 games available. The return of a new season in Scotland at the beginning of August would follow on from the planned conclusion of the English Premier League’s 2019-20 season.
The SPFL and Sky have also agreed to spread the financial settlement for the games unable to be completed in 2019-20 across the term of their new five-year contract, which is said to be worth £160m. This settlement is reportedly worth £1.5m.
Doncaster said today: “This is an innovative and pragmatic solution to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and I’m grateful for the flexibility shown by our clubs and by Sky Sports.
“This agreement means that any liability for games not delivered during season 2019-20 has now been settled, on terms that reflect Sky’s status as a committed partner and supporter of Scottish football.”
At present it is unclear whether the virtual season ticket plan will allow fans to watch individual games, or cover away matches. Speaking today, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said Premiership clubs will “explore potential arrangements” to show away games.
He added: “We’re really excited about getting back to training later this month with a view to closed door games kicking off at the start of August and, whilst we appreciate we are operating under ever-changing circumstances, we’re preparing, and hoping, to return to Pittodrie with partial crowds from November or December and full crowds in January 2021.”
Commenting on its agreement with the SPFL, Rob Webster, managing director of Sky Sports, said: “The virtual season ticket for the 2020-21 season is an innovative way to maintain the connection with fans and provide economic stability for the clubs, and we are very happy to support it.
“The new season promises to be a unique experience for the Scottish Premiership and our approach is to be as flexible and supportive of the clubs as we can be in these unique times.”