AFTER the Scottish football team’s stunning one-goal victory over Croatia, the SNP seems to have come up with a real 2014 referendum vote winner.
It proposes that an independent Scotland would use the powers of the European Union to ensure all the national team’s matches are shown on free-to-air television.
Sky Sports currently holds the rights to both home and away qualifiers for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup involving the national side. But that deal expires after the 2018 qualifiers.
The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive allows member states the option to draw up a list of sporting or cultural events – their “Crown Jewels” – which are of major importance to society, to be broadcast on free-to-air TV.
Alex Salmond has previously criticised “extraordinary and frankly unacceptable” position that Scotland’s qualifiers are not shown on terrestrial channels. England’s football matches are broadcast on ITV, as part of an exclusive four-year deal with the English FA.
Under the current Sky Sports deal, STV only gets the Scotland highlights. However, yesterday culture secretary Fiona Hyslop told Scotland on Sunday, the national team’s matches would be included in the “Crown Jewels” list.
She said: “In an independent Scotland we would have the powers to ensure Scotland’s World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches were available for everyone to watch on free-to-air TV.
“The Scottish Government has consistently argued for Scotland’s football matches to be added to the list of sporting events that must be available live on free-to-air television.”
The UK’s sport events protected for free-to-air TV include the Wimbledon tennis finals, the Grand National and the Olympic Games. However, the list of events available for Scottish viewers on network TV includes the Challenge Cup final for rugby league, which mainly involves teams with a fan-base in northern England.
Under EU rules governments are effectively protected from legal challenges over sporting events given protected status.
The last UK Labour government faced calls from backbenchers to extend the list of protected sporting events.
John Grogan, who served as a Labour MP in the last parliament for Selby, campaigned for the inclusion of sports such as Test Match cricket on the list presented to the EU. However, Gordon Brown’s government failed to introduce any legislation on the issue.