An amazing set of Sky and BT viewing figures has been released this week, and they paint a grim picture for those who’ve spent the last couple of years busily supporting the “Old Firm” marketing myth; the one that says this is a game the world wants to watch, the one that says this is a game which eclipses any other.
Our game with Sevco was the first league match ever between the clubs.
It came after two cup games with both sides having won one apiece. I cannot remember a league match that was more hyped. Yet statistics show that it wasn’t even the most watched Scottish game of the season; that was the opening weekend encounter between ourselves and Hearts.
332,000 people watched the Hearts game. That was 10,000 more than watched our one-sided encounter with the newly promoted four year old club. It’s clear which game viewers thought would be the tighter, tougher, contest.
Sevconites and their media lackies are already hiding behind excuses, of course. The most prominent of those excuses is that the over-hyped match went head to head with the Manchester derby, the first between the Mourinho and Guardiola teams.
Let them cling to that, if it helps them sleep at night, but nearly twice as many viewers watched our Champions League tie with City (592,000) … which shows where the game ranks in terms of priorities for football fans across the UK.
To put it another way, more people watched Scotland’s opening game in the World Cup Qualifying campaign … and they were playing Malta. That was viewed by 359,000.
The enormous hype that surrounded the league game was for nought when a Scotland game drew a greater audience. Fans of other Scottish clubs have no interest in it as a spectacle anymore (mostly because it’s not one) and they are sick of the hype that has so much of the media focussed on just two teams. Fans elsewhere in the UK have better options on the table; the Manchester derby was just one such case in point.
When you see how many watched our game with City you can evaluate which is the bigger draw; it’s the Champions League, by miles. Bear in mind too that those figures were for a match on BT Sport, without anywhere near the market share Sky has … and it was on Sky where the Sevco league game was shown, and showcased as the biggest in football.
It is tremendously important that this bubble is burst, because it’s one of the most dangerous to our national game. The fixture can be hyped up to ridiculous limits as people choose, but it does not come close to commanding the audience share the Celtic – Rangers game did before it. Whilst our club is clearly a huge draw, I’m not convinced theirs is any longer, and it’s the promotion of their brand, above all, that drives the Survival Lie and the Old Firm hype.
The game itself was, of course, a one sided rout. Having learned the sum total of nil from it Sevco’s players and manager have convinced themselves that it was a fluke result, that it didn’t reflect a gap between the two teams, and are talking up their chances. On Sunday we’ll take the field against a team that is fully ensconced in a wee world of its own, a denial of reality which is going to result in a rude, horrible awakening for everyone concerned.
I’ve not even had a chance to properly consider the game yet; there’s a bigger one tomorrow and one that will draw another of those massive TV audiences. That game is where my attention is, and I’ll be writing about it from the minute I get out of bed.
When I do turn my mind, briefly, to the semi-final I simply can’t see past us. We should win it at a walk.
Tomorrow night will be a far more difficult experience.