Fury has erupted south of the border, with fans of almost every top flight club in uproar, and it’s perfectly understandable why they are. An era of rampant greed has reached its zenith with the EPL clubs entering into the worst deal with the TV companies yet, for a pay-per-view agreement to screen matches at £15 a time.
What’s wrong with that, you might ask?
Well, there’s no discount and no special arrangement for fans who have bought season tickets. They, like everyone else, are being asked to pay the full fee for matches they would normally be able to watch from a seat in the stand … although they’ve already paid for the seat in the stand.
For all the criticism Celtic took in the early part of the close season, when we announced that we were going ahead with a Virtual Season Ticket scheme, it has been fully vindicated not only in the fact of it but in the way we’ve chosen to do it as well.
I don’t know how they are going to work this for the European games – I’m sure that’s already well under discussion at Celtic Park – but in terms of the games which the Virtual Season Ticket has covered thus far we’ve stuck to some guiding principles which serve us well.
The most obvious one is that we haven’t gone ahead with a pay-per-view package for any of our matches; that was a tough decision for Celtic to take, and one that had a lot of our fans very unhappy. But in fact, it’s not only a principled move but an egalitarian one as well.
Because I was happy to pay a fee to St Mirren recently to watch our game there, but understand why Celtic didn’t offer non season ticket holders the chance to watch our home games the same way.
The Virtual Season Ticket is a perk. It’s a perk for those who put their money where their mouths were before this season kicked off.
It’s a perk that rewards loyalty.
Across the city, they have tried to bleed their fans as much as is humanely possible, yet even they went ahead with the Virtual Season Ticket scheme in the first place, in stark contrast to what’s happened down south, where only the English Championship seems to have sussed that you need to take the fans with you instead of just for granted.
EPL greed is not a surprise; it’s been rampant in that league since it started; indeed, the DNA of the English Premiership is infused with it.
It was the sole reason for its setup in the first place, of course and few can be surprised at what it’s morphed into it, although nobody would have expected it to grow to the point where that league often seems like a black hole sucking all life and energy towards it.
Fans have been getting royally grafted by the people in charge of that league for ages now; even clubs which barely register the impact of gate receipts charge exorbitant fees and the price of watching your team on TV gets higher and higher with the rights spread over so many different companies now that it’s a separate season ticket just to give yourself a chance of watching your own team of a weekend. How long can that be sustained?
In the present climate, not very long you would think.
I have heard a lot of talk down through the years about the imminent collapse of the EPL …
I see no sign that such a thing is on its way, although this crisis is bringing to a head a lot of issues which have crept over down there over the years.
Celtic has at least done right by us here, and they doubled down on it by giving the manager money to spend in the transfer market. I think in years to come, the board will be entitled to a lot of praise for the way they handled this summer.
Not so down south; there, football fans continue to be treated with utter contempt.