The era of the virtual season ticket is finally upon us, and I’ve been waiting for this for about three or four years now, since I first bought a PSVR headset and saw what those things can do. During the last World Cup, the BBC did a virtual match-ticket on VR which gave you the appearance of sitting in a luxury executive box watching the match.
I knew then that I was looking at the future of sports broadcasting.
Scottish football’s current broadcasting arrangements are ancient and stupid.
But they broadly follow the model across Europe.
There’s been no adaptation to the realities of advanced technology. Amazon offering football as part of Prime Video is a step forward; it’s a move into a new era. Yet the deals which bind club’s hands have created a two-tier football environment without actually allowing some to realise their full potential.
I look at Scottish football and I honestly cannot understand the business model at all.
All the clubs are bound by a collective agreement which sells the lot of us short. The global health emergency has been touted as a game-changer for many areas of our national life … the way sports sells itself ought to be one of them. The virtual season ticket can be transformative.
Celtic has been doing a version of the virtual season ticket for years, but to take advantage of it you have to live outside of the UK and Ireland.
Our North American fans can watch every game at Celtic Park on the internet, for a premium rate fee every year. Only our television deals prevent the same sort of system from being applied here at home … and I’ve often wondered how many subscribers our digital channel would have if we were able to.
We might be about to find out. We might be about to find out a lot of things.
Back when Rod Petrie was still reliable, back when he genuinely had ideas and wanted to push Scottish football into a brave new dawn, he and others conjured up the idea of FansTV … it was supposed to be an alternative to pursuing deals with Sky and others.
If the virtual season ticket takes off, this is something to watch out for. We’re too late for it in the here and now, and Sky’s deal is going to last for five years, but at the end of that we’re going to have options. Instead of taking paltry sums from Sky we could be pooling resources and clubs could televise every game. Your own home games would be covered by a season ticket … you could pay for the away matches on a game-by-game basis.
Would it attract advertising? Would it attract lots of subscribers?
We’ll find out during the next campaign, because it’s exactly the model we’ll be working from.
The clubs themselves will be carefully watching every aspect of this to see what they can see.
I think we’re entering a new era here.
I think Scottish football is going to find out how vital the product still is.
Sky and the rest will be watching nervously … and so will those clubs who think Celtic will forever be locked into a small TV contract and are thus never going to reach the levels that some clubs in England have, through Sky money rather than a glorious history.
So many things might never return to what we think of as “normal” … how good it would be if this was one of them, right?
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