With the recent announcement of the staggering £5.1 billion television deal awarded to the English Premier League, it proceeds to further isolate itself as the richest league in the world. The self proclaimed ‘best league in the world’ and its television deal will equate to around £10m per game, only £5m less in comparison to the whole of the current Scottish football television deal. Is it down to this genius marketing tagline that has the television companies clambering all over it in order to ensure it has the rights to show West Brom v Hull at 12.15 on a Sunday? There’s no denying that the constant ‘bigging itself up’ has captured the imagination of the armchair fans but for those who prefer the real thing it’s a story of inflated prices and deflated atmospheres.
It’s no surprise then that Scottish clubs can no longer compete with the riches or quality of football down south, especially when larger leagues than our own are struggling to keep up. Look to Holland and Portugal for example; even Spain, where the club who wins La Liga will make less money from its league position than the team relegated from the English premier League. Only Germany can compete in my opinion. Not because of the £££ in the game but because it has created the only USP that can compete with the ‘EPL’.
This is where Scotland has to change and sooner rather than later.
The people who run our game have let fans and clubs down by failing to gain sponsorships deals for National cups and leagues alike. Vital money for cash strapped clubs that could be the difference between making a profit or sliding into administration. They have been trusted to put our game at the forefront of their priorities and generate as much revenue for clubs as they can and haven’t done so. Clubs have also been trusted to generate income through making it attractive for fans to choose attending actual live games as opposed to being an armchair EPL fan in the warmth of their own home or down the local boozer; again they haven’t done so. For some, Scottish football is very quickly losing its appeal. It has to find something to re-engage existing fans and attract new fans through the gates, to give it an edge over staying at home and watching football on TV. It needs to create a USP.
England’s ‘unique selling point’ is that it boasts the best league in the world, a marketing technique that has enabled the game to reach the peaks it has just now. Germany’s ‘unique selling point’ is the ‘standing, drinking beer with mates, in a full stadium’ culture that exists in the game and the fan involvement this has created. Scotland must take parts of both of these in order to regenerate the game North of the border. Talk of introducing ‘safe standing sections’, (which would be the first introduced in Britain,USP right there), have been put on hold again for now with Celtic’s enquiry being knocked back by police and health and safety boffs but now is the time for the governing bodies and clubs to make a stand and make radical change to create a new excitement for the good of the game. Bringing alcohol back into Scottish stadiums could potentially increase much needed revenue for clubs and with it already happening at rugby matches in this country, why shouldn’t it happen? It would be unjust to categorise all football fans as ‘lager louts’ or ‘hooligans’ and it’s unlikely that matches such as Motherwell v Ross County would suddenly turn into a warzone at the introduction of alcohol being sold at matches.
Looking towards England’s and one thing that stands out is just how important self adulation and praise is; something we don’t do often enough in this country in regards to the game. The media and journalists who are very quick to put down our game when things are going bad, unfortunately aren’t as quick to promote the good things that happen. By taking a leaf out of our wealthy neighbours’ book we should be looking to market our product as quality entertainment for spectators to go and watch live action. Having standardised ticket prices at £15/£20 for adults and £5/£10 for under 18’s could go a long way to making football an affordable family day out once again. Fans want to feel valued and at the moment there just isn’t that feeling that you are made to feel wanted, whether that’s through early kick off times or over zealous stewarding there seems to be a lack of appreciation of the efforts that fans make to actually attend games. Friday Night Football as an idea was fantastic and worked well to begin with due to the practicalness of fixtures based on locality. Now though we seem to have lost sight of that, with Motherwell having 5 Friday night fixtures this season, 2 of which are away to Aberdeen. Full stadiums can help to create that feel good factor around a club and the game itself but how can this happen when fixtures don’t allow it? On the plus side, just look at Hearts as an example. Fan ownership and a young exciting team on the park and Tynecastle is practically full every week. Yes they have had their financial difficulties but they have rectified them in the proper manner and put fans first. Fans are the priority stakeholder in Scottish football and should be treated as so with fan ownership or at least fan representation on the board of a club surely a must in this day and age.
Hopefully in the coming months the powers that be in Scottish football will look to the ‘EPL’ deal with envy and realise that we too could be using the passion for football in this country as a selling point and getting the best deal possible for clubs and fans. Listen, even 10% of that television would go a long way to football in Scotland. Make it happen
Words – Richard Foy @ThatBoiRico