Smith fires a warning shot to Westminster over Scotland TV rights

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THE Scottish Football Association has warned the Government that restricting Scotland home internationals to free-to-air broadcasters would threaten the existence of the game.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith made the stark warning in a letter to David Davies, chairman of the Government's Review of Listed Events.

Smith claims that putting Scotland games on the protected list, which currently includes the Scottish Cup final, could cost the SFA 12million a year. Scotland's home games are currently screened live by Sky with BBC Scotland showing highlights later on.

The SFA highlighted the importance of TV income to its grassroots football schemes and urged Davies, who will make recommendations to the Government later this year, to consider the "drastic" effects of any change in policy.

"If we are faced with a stark choice between allowing people to watch football, or encouraging kids to play the game we will always choose the latter," Smith wrote.

The former Rangers player added: "Our recent experience of contract renewals has demonstrated the inability of terrestrial broadcasters to be in a position to be competitive.

"The shortfall to Scottish football could be up to 12m per annum. Scottish football cannot afford to lose this amount of money and be expected to continue to exist in the future."

Smith added: "As a general principle, we understand that it is undoubtedly a good thing that major sporting events in the UK receive as large an audience as possible."

The decision over the protected events lies with the Westminster Government and Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Sport, Culture and Media, in particular.

Smith has told him that the SFA would seek recompense should it be restricted to negotiating with the BBC or STV over rights for Hampden internationals and Scottish Cup matches.

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