21st December 2014
UCFB Guest Lecturer Profile: Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the SPFL
A leading light in Scottish football, Neil Doncaster joined the UCFB as an advisory board member in 2013. As Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, he certainly has a strong history with UK football.
A qualified solicitor, Neil’s career in football began when he joined Norwich City in 1997 as company secretary and solicitor. His enterprising streak showed through as he quickly moved up the ranks to Head of Operations, before taking up the role of Chief Executive in 2001.
Whilst at Norwich City, Neil oversaw the team’s promotion to the Premier League for the 2004/5 season, a great achievement, and was a pinnacle in rebuilding the club’s reputation with fans. During his twelve years with Norwich season ticket sales trebled and the club received a number of awards for community, business development and innovation.
Actively involved in English football, Doncaster sat on the board for The Football League from 2006-2009 and in 2008 was elected as a representative of the league to The Football Association.
After stepping down from his positions at Norwich and then with the boards in 2009, Doncaster was appointed Chief Executive of the Scottish Premier League. This role was not without its trials, though, as he was present for the crisis that saw Rangers go into administration and also managed the league restructuring – no small task. In 2013 the Scottish Premier league and the Scottish Football League were merged and Neil fought off all comers to become Chief Executive of the newly formed Scottish Professional Football League.
Since his appointment the league has seen a growth of income for Scotland’s premier football clubs, bringing in broadcasters and securing new commercial partnerships to make the league profitable.
A firm believer that football clubs should be at the heart of their communities, Neil has championed this ethos in his work with the SPFL, extending its charitable activities by appointing an Official Charity Partner of the league each season. He believes passionately that the organisations should be accessible and family friendly – in 2009 launching the SPL Family Champions initiative to encourage families to Scottish clubs.
Neil graduated from Bristol University in 1992 with a law degree. In 2008 he received an MBA from the University of East Anglia, which he worked for on a part time basis whilst still at Norwich City. He is an executive in residence for the University of Liverpool.
A football fan from an early age – possessing a love for Crystal Palace – Neil was taken to his first game at Selhurst Park with his grandfather in the 1970s. Devon born, with a stint in London, he currently resides with his family in Glasgow.