Last week, four senior Scottish football clubs declined to attend the quarter-final draw of the Co-operative Insurance Cup. Yesterday, the company announced it would not be renewing its £1 million a year-plus sponsorship of what is otherwise known as the Scottish League Cup.
However, both the Scottish Football League and the sponsor were at pains to stress last night that the end of the arrangement was not connected to last week’s events.
What these last days have provided, though, is huge publicity for Co-operative Insurance.
The debate over the non-appearances has raged in the Scottish media ever since last Thursday’s draw, when Scottish Football League chief executive, David Longmuir, blasted Rangers, Dundee United, Falkirk and Motherwell for declining invitations to attend. The insurance company has pumped £15 million into Scottish football over the past 12 years.
It meant, for instance, 20 namechecks in Friday's edition of the Daily Star of Scotland newspaper, plus 13 in The Scotsman, ten in The Herald and eight in the Scottish Daily Mail.
The Scotsman returned to the theme on Saturday by using a picture of the draw for the second day running to illustrate Glen Gibbons’ sports column in which the experienced sportswriter made some telling comments.
Gibbons wrote: “Had a group of advocates behaved as disdainfully towards a judge as half of the last eight clubs in the Co-operative Insurance Cup did with regard to the quarter-final draw, they would surely have been held to be in contempt of court.
“The affair points up the bizarre composition of a tournament whose most celebrated contestants are not members of the body which owns it. It is also an event that lost much of its meaningfulness when its capture no longer brought qualification for Europe.”
Meanwhile, journalists didn’t have the problem of a mention for the sponsor when the Scottish FA Cup kicked off on Saturday, with 34 clubs involved in 17 first round ties – as there is, as yet, no ‘name’ sponsor for the tournament.
An insight into the current situation came from Martin Hannan in The Scotsman, who revealed: “Though Carling has been named the official beer of the Cup, the Scottish Football Association was facing pressure from health campaigners not to repeat the long-running deal which saw the competition named the Tennent’s Scottish Cup from 1989 to 2007.”
Pointing out that the past two seasons saw the Scottish Government and businessman, Willie Haughey, sponsor the world’s second-oldest national football tournament – under the Homecoming and Active Nation brands – Hannan added: “Despite its options narrowing without drink companies, The Scotsman can reveal that the SFA is at an advanced stage in negotiations with a sponsor who is not a maker of alcoholic drinks. The sponsor should be announced before the Cup’s second round on October 23.”