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Doncaster relishing SPL challenge
Doncaster has been officially unveiled as the SPL's first chief executive for seven years and vowed to help Scottish football weather the current financial crisis. The 39-year-old knows all about the pain of seeing a lucrative television deal go up in smoke. He was a year into his tenure as Norwich chief executive when ITV Digital infamously went bust back in 2002. The broadcaster had a multi-million pound contract with the Football League, and many clubs struggled to cope without the windfall they had budgeted for. There are remarkable parallels with the plight of SPL sides following the demise of Setanta, who were set to plough £125million into the Scottish game over the next four years before going into administration last month. But Doncaster insisted English clubs bounced back from the ITV Digital debacle and he is certain the SPL can do the same. Recalling Norwich's troubles, he said: "It was a difficult time but the clubs got through it at that time and I think they're stronger for it. "If I were concerned about the prospects of the SPL, I wouldn't be here. "I'm not concerned; I'm very excited about the prospects and the challenges ahead." He added: "I think everyone at the moment, throughout the whole world - let alone football - has challenges. "Football is not immune from those at all and I understand from a club point of view exactly what they're going through. "I've been through that with Norwich City for the last number of years." Doncaster takes over at a pivotal moment for the SPL, who are believed to be in negotiations with both Sky and ESPN as they frantically try to secure a television deal for next season. Reports claim the joint bid from Sky and ESPN is around half of what Setanta were prepared to offer. Representatives of the 12 SPL clubs discussed the issue yesterday but it could be up to two weeks before a formal agreement is reached on the way forward. Doncaster insists he will take a back seat in any negotiations, allowing SPL chairman Lex Gold - who relinquishes the executive powers he has held for the past seven years - to be the frontman. "I understand the situation," Doncaster said of the television deal. "But the TV situation is one that Lex and the board have been dealing with for a number of months now. "I'm just in with my feet under the desk and it's right that I let them continue to deal with that situation, hear what's going on, be of assistance - but they'll be leading that process." Nevertheless, Doncaster would not like to see the SPL sell itself short. "I think the quality of the product is not in doubt," he said. "I think that the SPL has a great standing within Europe. I'm very excited about the prospect of the SPL and if I weren't, I wouldn't be here." The appointment of former Norwich chief executive Doncaster was confirmed after a meeting of the SPL's 12 clubs yesterday afternoon. He was chosen by a panel consisting of Gold, Hibernian chairman Rod Petrie and Rangers chief executive Martin Bain. He is the SPL's first chief executive since Roger Mitchell resigned in 2002, ironically after the collapse of another TV deal. Doncaster, who has served on the boards of both the Football Association and Football League, said: "I'm tremendously excited. It's a very exciting time to be involved with Scottish football. "The SPL has a huge standing within Europe already and I'm very excited about getting round the clubs, talking to them and understanding their issues and concerns. "I've met the chairmen and chief executives of the clubs already yesterday. "I was very impressed with the quality of the debate around the table and the passion that they showed for their clubs, and I'm looking forward to working with them."
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