The Sunday Shoot: Scottish football needs strong free-to-air broadcasting

A couple of weeks ago, BT Sport received their fare share of pelters for their promotion of the Betfred Cup semi-finals – and rightly so. It’s no surprise that Celtic and Rangers take centre stage when building matches, but it was unacceptable for it to happen so literally while relegating opponents to afterthoughts in the TV company’s advertising.

However, can you really dish out too much criticism to a media organisation who put time, effort and money into the Scottish game when others are left red-faced?

After attending Celtic’s 4-2 win over Hibs last Saturday and over indulging after the game was finished, I was fairly looking forward to catching the highlights on BBC Sportscene on Sunday night.

My excitement soon turned to dismay when I realised that the only games that would be showing were the Scottish Premiership clashes from Saturday with neither League Cup game highlights available to view for free.

I enjoy logging on to my laptop or iPad post-match to see the different takes of a game and since I gave up on Twitter, it has allowed me much more time to browse through national newspapers and broadcasters sites in order to see just how much coverage we actually get.

Neither the BBC or STV had anything spectacular at the weekend in regards to the League Cup semi-finals, no online highlights, no in depth analysis and no breakdown on where the game was won or lost, just a hastily thrown together match report each, alongside comments from post-match interviews and press conferences.

I realise that there will be broadcast rights and contracts to negotiate surrounding who can stream or show highlights of certain games, and it’s something that the SPFL and SFA are mismanaging as much as anyone, the competition organisers need to protect basic rights so that they are accessible by as many people as possible.

Regardless, surely it isn’t too much to ask of the national broadcaster to provide comprehensive coverage of a national cup competition?

Who am I kidding?

The BBC have shown contempt and ridicule for the Scottish game for years with seldom seen live matches, frequent mistakes and the absence of anything close to pride in our 42 teams. As a Celtic fan and a licence fee payer, I would love to see some of that money invested in our game.

Every time this argument comes along there is also a clamber for online streaming or social media platforms to take ownership of rights for games and this is all well and good but nobody is doing so at the moment so the pressure is going to be on the BBC, STV, Sky and BT. With the former not interested, STV seemingly dismantling its sports output and bowing to the almighty ITV, it’s down to the subscription channels to push things on.

BT are the best if a bad bunch at the moment but they do seem to give a toss. They hire presenters, journalists and commentators that understand our game and what it means to fans, they do not shy away for the big talking points or decisions and their promotion of the game and reaction to it gets people talking about our game again.

But what does that mean for average Joe? I attend as many football games as possible and we all know that it isn’t a cheap day out in 2017. Can you expect people to be paying upwards of £30 a month on two different platforms in order to see games that they are seeing in the flesh anyway? It just doesn’t seem like a viable way to retain interest in a past-time that already has ballooning costs.

In an ideal world, all sport would be available to view on all platforms but money talks and business takes over. So if you’re going to criticise, make sure it is warranted but also, aim it at those who are selling our game short in favour of hype from other countries.

Scottish football and Celtic in particular offer unique traits that, for me, make it far more meaningful than your run of the mill mid-table clash from the EPL, Bundesliga or La Liga. It may not be that everyone will tune in but let the record show that if you don’t try then how will you ever know?

Anyway, should the BBC’s output be dictated by purely what brings in the most numbers? The situation as it is feels unbalanced with so many resources pumped into Match Of The Day while Sportscene languishes in a nightmare slot without a budget.

Do we want the next generation growing up as fans of teams south of the border? If things are not acted upon hastily then I fear that the brigade of Scots with antipathy for football in this country will only grow and once you are so far down the line, how do you recover?

It may take time but if we don’t address that our national game is primarily being broadcast behind a paywall, it could be too late before we realise our mistakes.

Paul Fisher is one-third of the team that brings you this website. He can also be found on The Grand Auld Podcast which will be returning with a new episode this week.

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Shoot: Scottish football needs strong free-to-air broadcasting

  1. I agree with all your points. Why is BBC Alba one of our best at sports coverage?
    How can they afford games that BBC Scotland cannot.
    SC4 in Wales can also show Wales matches at the same time as Sky.

  2. I agree that Scottish football should be accessible to as many people as possible who want to watch it on TV. However, the comment about the wish to ‘bring back free football on TV’ is both unrealistic and unfounded. Firstly, we have never had free football on television – it was paid for by the licence fee payers and, in the case of STV, by advertisers who in turn pass the cost of the ads on to the us, the consumers. So we pay again.
    Anyway, how can we get free football on TV? Are you suggesting that all the TV crews and Broadcast staff who bring you these products work for free? Would you go shopping in Tesco, take a cab, go for a meal…you know where I’m going wit this…and expect these products for free?

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