The opening weekend of the SPFL season is upon us. For many of us, opening weekend is a glorious time. Everyone is equal. For those moments before the whistle blows at 3pm, your team is perfect. The possibilities are endless. It is a day that requires pageantry and build-up. Opening Weekend is a huge possibility for the SPFL which it continually doesn’t leverage.
I had a look at the SPFL’s twitter account yesterday there was not a single visible tweet suggesting that the SPFL league season was kicking off in less than 100 hours’ time.
It’s a small example but it points to a larger problem. No pinned tweet, no promotional video, no bold league imagery. Earlier in the day Chief Executive Neil Doncaster had talked about “real box office” appeal of the SPFL this season. In which case, he’s built a ticket hut but forgot about constructing the rest of the theatre.
There’s been no build up to the start of the season. Why aren’t there billboards in prominent towns and cities throughout Scotland? Why is one of the few promotional videos of the SPFL from last season a parody video from Paddy Power? Why did the new BBC deal that the SPFL signed not include a magazine show during the week? A 30 minute show that sells the next set of fixtures, promotes the wider game, promotes the personalities involved, promotes the individuals behind the scenes, and promotes the great work that many of our clubs do in the community. Scottish football is an exciting product. But if the league can’t bring itself to tell people that, why would the fans?
I have sympathy for the communications team at SPFL. They aren’t given the tools, resources and budget to sell the game. And ultimately, that’s what we’re talking about: selling the game. The clubs continue to plough their own furrow, but that has limited appeal.
Yesterday the SPFL held a ‘Captain’s Day’. How do I know this? Because media outlets covered it. Not the SPFL itself. That’s not credible in 21st century sports. EPL, NFL, MLB, MLS & the NBA are all building their brand because they realise that the game is bigger than the clubs. Even the Northern Ireland Football League recognises that. The video above sells Northern Irish football in a way I haven’t seen Scottish football contemplate.
Scottish football has one huge advantage over others: a history like no other. So there are real opportunities to play on this. Why not inaugurate new traditions? Why not stipulate that the Championship winners will open each new season on the Friday night with a home fixture when they are presented with the league flag? Similarly, close the weekend with a Sunday fixture where the reigning Premiership title holders are presented with their flag. Why not involve fans by having Neil Doncaster present them with the flag at Hampden that’s then transferred to their home ground? By creating totem events, we create a unique, marketable event, which should in turn, make them more desirable to fans.
The issue is that there are plenty of passionate and talented people who love Scottish football who are locked out of it by those in charge. This detachment from the product, especially when it’s been run poorly, causes resentment and ultimately apathy. That’s the real danger for the SPFL.