It has recently been leaked online that BT Sport are attempting to become the sole owner of Scottish football’s television rights. BT have shared the rights with Sky since 2013 but now appear to want them all to themselves. This would mean they’d show around 60 live Scottish Premiership games a season – including the Old Firm – as well as the Betfred Cup. A new deal for highlights and mobile distribution is said to be on the way as well. If you’re a fan of Scottish football, you should be bloody delighted.
Now, before anyone gets carried away, we’re not about to see an influx of money into Scottish football. It may well be a “record breaking” TV deal, but is unlikely to go anywhere beyond the £40 Million mark. Agents of guff foreign players far and wide will have to find somewhere else to offload their clients. What BT Sport do offer however is enthusiasm, and that is invaluable.
BT Sport talk up Scottish football. Their presenters and their pundits are passionate, and for the most part, knowledgeable about it. Whilst most of their counterparts at Sky and the BBC know very little about what’s happening in Scottish football outside of Glasgow, the likes of Stephen Craigan, Darrell Currie and even Chris Sutton seem to do. They’re able to provide informative, and sometimes even heated discussion of teams and issues that extend beyond Celtic and Rangers. Scottish Football Extra is their pièce de résistance in that regard. They could spend 10 minutes talking about Rangers’ latest troubles, or about Celtic in Europe, but could also talk just as eloquently about the managerial situation at Motherwell, or about how mince Hamilton Accies are this week.
It’s not revolutionary, it’s simply BT’s pundits doing their research and the job they are paid to do. However, when contrasted with their colleagues at other media outlets, it really is night and day. Pat Bonner couldn’t name a player outside of Celtic to save his life. Willie Miller knows a lot about Aberdeen, but hee haw else. Scott McDonald still thinks he plays for Celtic. Steven Thompson barely says anything of note. Derek Ferguson is Derek Ferguson, and Andy “disgraceful scenes” Walker somehow brings both sides of the Old Firm together in their mocking of him. No one comes close to Scottish Football’s equivalent of The Expendables that BT have brought together.
If BT can offer even half of the enthusiasm they currently do for 60 Premiership games, we’ll all be better for it. Anything is better than Sky’s dull and laboured coverage. It could be argued they’d take their eye off the ball with no competition and perhaps let their standards slip, but I can’t see it. BT see the value in growing Scottish football’s brand and actually promoting it, something Sky have rarely ever done due to being transfixed with the “best league in the world.” BT know if they nurture, and just treat Scottish Football seriously, that it can continue to be a valuable commodity for them.
It’s all hypothetical, but a magazine show of sorts that introduces fans to the teams and various personalities in Scottish football would be very beneficiary. The ones produced for the Premier League and La Liga on Sky are excellent and offer unique interviews and insights for fans they wouldn’t normally get. Obviously, the Scottish football equivalent would be done on a budget, and would probably be monthly at best, but there’s certainly a gap for a show of its description. Goals and highlights across social media would offer decent exposure as well. The SPFL’s recent outputs on Facebook and Twitter have been good and engaging. There’s classic goals, matches and incidents available daily. BT can obviously reach a wider audience with their social media content and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.
The streaming of matches on Facebook is also something that should be looked at. There’s routinely thousands of people watching Periscope feeds of untelevised Scottish games (the big ones anyway) and hundreds watching games from lower leagues as well. Over 500 people were sat watching a dodgy, shaky feed of Raith Rovers vs Morton last month, on a Tuesday night. There is a demand for even the most unglamorous of matches, and leagues around Europe have started using Facebook to showcase their product. It is certainly something the SPFL/BT should consider, particularly for lower league games. Give me Dumbarton vs Ayr on a Tuesday night limed in 240p over the Champions League any day.
None of what I’ve suggested could actually happen, but I have far more confidence in BT doing something innovative and worthwhile with the rights than Sky, or anyone else for that matter. They could keep it exactly as is, and it would still be better than Sky’s coverage.
15 minutes of build up for a game nobody knew was on because you never advertised it, 14 minutes of which will be spent moping about how it isn’t an Old Firm game. Perhaps David Tanner could use the time to once again accuse us of “lying through our teeth” for not missing the Old Firm?
Neil McCann should be offered a job at BT should they wrestle full control. His analysis is typically very good and he offers decent insight into games. Him locking horns with Chris Sutton would be the Scottish footballing equivalent of The Rock vs Steve Austin.
The winds of change are blowing and Sky’s reign could soon be coming to an end. If they want to have any part of Scottish football, they’re going to have to fork up much more money than they’d like to in return. I hope it’s the end though, and all Scottish football supporters should feel the same.
They have undervalued our game for decades.
By Evan McFarlane (@EvanMcFarlane)