£200m for F1-yet BBC can't find £3m to let us watch Scotland's football stars

ONE is Scotland's national sport, followed fanatically across the world by the Tartan Army and adored by generations who kicked balls between jumpers on patches of wasteland.

The other is largely the domain of the well-heeled and is synonymous with champagne rather than Tennent's lager.

Yet it is Formula 1, not football, that Scots will be watching free after the BBC signed a multi-million-pound deal for the rights.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yesterday, the corporation – which has already been attacked for failing to secure Scottish football internationals – came in for stinging criticism from Scottish politicians, who accused it of "metropolitanism" in prioritising the motor sport.

The deal – which will see F1 back on the BBC for five years from the 2009 season, after 12 years on ITV – was hailed as a coup for the corporation. It has not revealed how much it has paid, but pundits have suggested it would be up to 200 million.

Despite the BBC insisting the public reaction had been "overwhelmingly positive", the backlash was quick to come from north of the Border.

Keith Brown, SNP MSP for Ochil, said last night: "BBC and STV have failed to acquire the rights to broadcast Scotland's qualifying games for the World Cup yet the BBC has 200 million to spend on Formula 1.

"How much of that 200 million would it have taken to buy Scotland's international qualifying matches?

"It seems the only time the BBC don't have money is when it comes to Scottish sport. Scotland's national games should be on our national television stations, not relegated to satellite."

Mr Brown, who has previously had a member's debate and motion lodged on reserving qualifying games for terrestrial TV, said he had written to ask the Secretary of State for Culture for Scotland's qualifying games to be reserved for terrestrial.

Margo MacDonald, the independent MSP, said: "The BBC is as guilty of metropolitanism and high-handed disregard for the so-called regions and national regions, as has been alleged for years now. It is nonsense to suggest that Formula 1 racing will attract as much interest even across the UK as Scottish football internationals would in Scotland itself."

Missing out on big matches

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

THE fact that Scottish football campaigns are not shown on terrestrial television – while English ones are – has infuriated the Scottish Government and sports fans.

Earlier this year, Alex Salmond, the First Minister, accused broadcasters of "carelessness" in not securing the rights to Scotland's World Cup Campaign. The four home games were bought up by Sky while Setanta took the four away games. Neither has said how much the deals were worth, but glamour matches are estimated to be worth up to 3 million apiece.

Setanta also owns the rights to show SPL matches live. Its contract was extended in 2006 after it agreed to pay 54 million over four years – a record for Scottish football.

It is understood ITV paid 275 million to the English Football Association for a four-year deal, giving them England's competitive home games, friendly away fixtures and first pick of FA Cup games.