Date: 14th February 2018 at 3:04pm
Written by:

Yesterday’s announcement about Sky and BT’s deals for English football means that Scottish football will continue to play their poor relation far into the future.

I cannot entirely blame the English for that, not when there are people here who have proved to be utterly incompetent and unable to market our own leagues properly, but blame itself seems pointless when you get right down to it. The situation exists. We all have to deal with it.

Scottish football is tied to a dreadful deal for a few more years yet. The particulars of it are too horrible to recount, but I’m sure many of you can quote them chapter and verse anyway.

The damage we’ve had done to us by successive administrations has driven our commercial viability down so much that it’s hard to see how we recover it.

Innovation is necessary. Imagination is a must. The current situation is untenable because it allows even lower league clubs down there to spend more than our clubs do, and that means the steady erosion of quality in our leagues. Things will continue to deteriorate.

Some people think this inflationary cycle can’t go on; they are correct, in one sense. But they have failed to take into consideration the enormous impact of social media and new technology. If Sky and BT Sport are no longer willing to pay premium prices for games companies like Facebook and Amazon will.

The EPL is now everything the SPL is not; marketable, forward thinking, engaged and looking far ahead to a point when traditional ways of watching games have gone into sharp decline. They look at Netflix and Amazon Prime and see the future.

We have tough choices in front of us, and Celtic in particular.

We’re a club who belongs at the very top table, but our ability to get there will continue to be inhibited by the league in which we play. It’s pointless hoping for the collapse of the English TV market; it’s decades away if it happens at all, and there are ways they could fill the breach.

Scottish football has to get better; that’s the bottom line here. And unfortunately for us there are huge obstacles to it doing so, and one of them is fear. Under the current system clubs will never allow us to negotiate our own independent broadcasting deals; they think that would push us even further ahead, as though there were some chance of them catching us right now.

They have failed to consider how it might help them, how it might expose the whole of the league to a larger global audience and spark interest in our football.

They are limited by their own lack of imagination. So are those who run the game, who would see it as a power grab and stand in the way of it however they were able.

We cannot expect charity from the football authorities either; I am willing to bet that our national league is no worse than some of those from around Europe who have negotiated massive TV deals, but we have to go out and fight for those; nobody is going to just give them to us. As with everything else, the key to this is advertising … and that’s where the roof falls in.

Scottish football is bad business.

One of the reasons its bad business is that – and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true – we have one club that is entirely toxic to the outside world. And that club, as it just so happens, is one that the league and the governing bodies have shown no appetite for taking on. Sectarian singing is only part of it. The SPL is a marketers nightmare because of them and, irony of ironies, because of the Victim and Survival lies.

Part of it too is the appalling statements – which have never been withdrawn from the record – from Doncaster and Regan six years ago about how sanguine they were about clubs here running up huge debts and then dumping them in scandalous circumstances.

No wonder Sevco, which rose out of that, still cannot find a commercial bank to give them an overdraft. No wonder major institutions won’t touch our leagues with a 20 foot pole.

We give off the impression of being an absolute shambles. We give off the stink of corruption. The national sport is still reeling from decisions taken then and comments which ought to have seen the people responsible for them run out of town on a rail.

Innovation and vision, from these people? Not a chance. Peter Lawwell wants the SPFL to have more power, but left in the hands of who? Doncaster? No thank you. He should have walked the plank with his SFA mate, and he should have walked it ages ago.

Yesterday was another black day for our sport, another announcement that we could have done without. We’re boxed in here. We’re going to continue to struggle whilst we’re part of this system and whilst we continue to do nothing about it.

Is there something we could do about it? Yes, but the solutions are tough to implement, and a lot of self interest is standing in the way. On both sides of the border.

I’ll write about the possible ways forward – and the obstacles – a little bit later.

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