Date: 14th November 2009 at 5:56pm
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A government-commissioned report was published this week which recommended changes to the list of major sports events “reserved” for terrestrial free-to-air broadcasters (BBC and ITV basically). The authors – led by by David Davies, the former FA executive director and BBC correspondent – believe that major football internationals involving Scotland should be part of the broadcasting “crown jewels”.

This report has drawn a predictable response from SFA chairman Gordon Smith. ‘In an ideal world, international matches would be broadcast free on terrestrial channels, but we’ve got to think of the development of the game. We would have no problem at all with this report if the free-to-air broadcaster paid the same money as a satellite broadcaster, or if the government would make up the shortfall, so that we can continue to offer the services we offer to football at all levels.’

It seems that the current arrangement, which gives Sky the right to broadcast Scotland internationals live, brings in around £15m each year to the SFA – the majority of which Smith claims is needed to support schools and youth football initiatives. Income from the BBC or ITV to replace the Sky deal when it ends would most likely be much less.

My initial reaction to Smith`s moaning is to question just what “development” of the game in Scotland has happened over the last 10 years ? The SFA (and other Scottish authorities) seem to have done very little to build a proper supply chain of skilled footballers who can gain experience in Scotland at SPL level. They may have been working behind the scenes – and spending money – but is there much evidence of success ? For example – how about forcing clubs to limit the number of “quick fix” purchased players in their squads to (say) 2 per transfer window ? Surely this has to be something that would deliver a “win-win” improvement ?. giving more opportunities for Academy players, and curbing the excesses that most clubs seem to have when it comes to spending money they don`t have.

If Scotland has to make do with reduced TV income from international TV broadcasting, would it not be time to look at the administration costs of the senior governing bodies (all 3 of them !!), and examine what value the game in Scotland actually gets from it (maybe starting with Smith’s own salary) ?

Ironically, the SNP government has welcomed the report, saying – “We have called for the Scotland men’s football team’s World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches to be shown on free-to-air television, and we are glad the independent advisory panel has endorsed this view. It is vital that grassroots football does not suffer, and while the onus must lie with the SFA to protect the development of the game, we would be happy to meet them to discuss the issue.’

Among current “crown jewels” being recommended for the terrestrial TV chop are the Winter Olympics, the Derby and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final.

What are your views on the merits of free TV coverage for Scotland’s matches ? After today`s 3-0 hammering in Cardiff, do you even care ?


3 Replies to “Scotland games on free TV – good or bad ?”

  • If the Government is going to contribute to the funding of grass-roots Scottish football (as Smith apparently wants), then they have to have some say in running it. The SFA/SPL/SFL fiasco isn’t working, and ironically in the same week a huge metal door slams shut in the faces of the Old Firm should throw down a gauntlet to those running the game to get our house in order. Will it happen that way? Very unlikely. Smith is just covering his own backside either way, so he has someone to blame when he doesn’t do his own job. Do I care after the 3-0 defeat? Yes. But it’s hard to see change coming when those apparently in charge can’t see past their own street in Glasgow never mind the ‘big picture’ in Scottish football.

  • 3 Celtic players started at the back yesterday and I am pretty sure at least one of them has had little football this season. Listening to Celtic fans in my office they seem to think their defence is mince but Burley seems to think otherwise… Free on TV well what a great idea lets show the world how pap we really are for nothing.

  • Yes… it actually does seem rather a pointless debate from a TV viewers point of view. If we were worth watching, many viewers would be willing to subscribe to Sky. But since we’re mince, few would bother even watching it on BBC/ITV, never mind paying for it.

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