Why Scottish football fans are annoyed at the SPFL over proposed £29.5m TV deal - and reasons to consider
There are certain subjects within Scottish football that really gets the blood pressure rising amongst supporters.
On the tepid side there is summer football. It rises as you discuss B teams and artificial surfaces. Treatment of fans, ticket prices and refereeing feature at the more incensed end.
Somewhere amongst all of that is the TV deal for the Scottish Premiership.
It was reported by The Guardian that Sky and the SPFL are in talks over an extension to their current deal. It would see the broadcaster retain rights to the league until 2029 with an increasing per-season fee topping out at £29.6million for up to 60 matches from the top-flight, rather than the current 48.
Other key aspects of the proposed deal include Sky holding an option of “10-match SPFL bundles at the cost of around £4m from 2024-25” and clubs being able to sell up to five of their home matches, which are not broadcast by Sky Sports, via pay-per-view.
Such a proposal has not been met with much enthusiasm by supporters.
To begin with, there is not a lot of love for Sky Sports. Aside from the numerous mix-ups with club badges and players used in promotions for games (Reo Hatate in a Celtic strip for the recent Edinburgh derby) there is a view amongst fans that Scottish football is seen as an inconvenience or, at best, treated with indifference.
Of the current deal, which runs until 2024/25 and is worth £25million per season, Sky Sports have failed to take their full allocation of 48 matches. In fact, they’ve barely gotten close.
The new deal will ensure the broadcaster has to show at least 42, while they can visit grounds five times a season rather than the current four.
Loosening the straightjacket
As for the SPFL. The league body has been accused by many of underselling the Premiership and not doing enough to attract offers from elsewhere, especially with Viaplay having entered the Scottish market, hoovering up Premier Sports.
Straight away, the value per game shown live will decrease under the new terms from over £500,000 to below £500,000 per game. In comparison to some TV deals around Europe, the price-per-game is competitive. However, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands are just some of the countries to earn much more across the season but with more or all games available.
The fact that up to five can be sold via pay-per-view by clubs is a positive step but it is only loosening the straightjacket. A continued issue surrounds the 108 games which will not be broadcast and how they could be sold within bundles to other possible interested parties.
Now, before the pitchforks are drawn for a march on Hampden Park. Sticking with Sky brings with it stability and a continued partnership with a respected broadcaster. It is the safe option. Understandably, fans will not see that as a good enough excuse.
Then there is the current Saturday afternoon blackout. It prevents games from being shown live between 2.45pm and 5.15pm. Unless that is scrapped or changed, if there are more live games it means they will be moved for TV purposes which has an impact on the match-going fan.
It leaves the question, what is the ideal TV deal and the 'real’ value of the Scottish Premiership?
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