'Now you've asked me, I will' - Rangers boss wades in over televised matches during pandemic

Steven Gerrard believes governments should ensure football is broadcast to free while restrictions are imposed during the current pandemic.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for Sky Sports to make the first Old Firm game of the season available for all to watch for free. Gerrard agrees but has urged authorities to investigate how to cover the cost rather than rely on broadcasting companies to make such a gesture.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has already stressed that it is not reasonable to ask a broadcaster that has invested £125m in Scottish football for a new television rights deal to give the “crown jewels” game away free.

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Gerrard argues that if politicians are intent on imposing movement restrictions and bans on gatherings in bars due to Covid-19, then they should also be trying to find ways to ensure high-profile football matches are shown free-to-air.

“I don’t really want to get involved in this chat but now that you’ve asked me the question, I think I will,” the Rangers manager said ahead of the first Old Firm derby of the season, which kicks-off at 12.30pm on Saturday.

Gerrard appeared to be making an appeal for the Everton v Liverpool clash which takes place at the same time to be given the same treatment and be made free-to-air. The Merseyside derby is being covered live by BT Sport.

“I think I’ve got a message for different people,” said Gerrard. “My message to the fans is to stay safe. To all sets of fans around the world, really respect this virus and follow instructions, rules and government guidelines.

“That goes without saying. But to the people that have given these fans the message to stay home and do this and do that, and don’t do this, don’t do that - provide free football for the fans.

“Not every fan has the luxury of Sky Sports and BT, our TV and Celtic TV. Not every fan has got that luxury. If you’re giving them orders to stay at home, provide free football so they don’t go wandering to Blackpool or Derby or wherever they go to watch the game. If you’re going to give instructions, at least back it up with free football for these fans.”

Asked if this was the responsibility of Sky Sports, who will be showing all four Old Firm league derbies this season, Gerrard said it was not solely down to them.

“Not just Sky,” he added. “The people that run football, and the governments, should make it compulsory for all the TV channels in this short space of time where there are lockdowns, tier threes and certain areas of Scotland and England where people can’t move and are told to stay in the house.

“Provide those people with free football so they can watch the team that they love and that they give so much of their life to. Give them free football to watch.”

Nicola Sturgeon returned to the issue during her daily briefing on Friday and repeated her message for fans not to travel to parts of the north of England, where pubs remain open, or gather in other people’s houses.

"I'm afraid that watching football, no matter how essential it may feel to some, does not fall into that essential category," said the First Minister.

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