A Scottish Football TV Proposal: Ditch SKY Sports & ESPN?


Since last season all talk has been about a League system revamp, even our contributors had their own opinions on the state of the Scottish game and how it could be saved in the articles – Scottish Football: A Philosophy For Change, Reconstruction Of The Scottish Game and The Price Of Substandard Football & An Inferior Product. But one issue that we have not discussed at length is the issue of our game on the box.

TV Revenue

After the demise of Setanta, which left several of our own clubs teetering on the brink of administration, if not liquidation, Sky Sports and ESPN held all the cards as the SPL clubs came calling desperately banging on the door for any loose change they had.

The two global giants of Sport secured the rights to 60 live SPL matches from 2009/10 to present for just £13 million per year or thereabouts. The same amount of TV revenue that the SPL clubs received from Setanta between Seasons 2006/07 to 2008/09. A mere £1.75 million more than what Sky Sports paid the SPL between Seasons 1998/99 to 2001/02, for covering only 38 live games.

Currently of the £13 million per year that the league receives from TV revenue, 4% of this sum goes to each club plus an additional payment depending on their final league positions. The bottom club receives 0.5%, while the SPL Champions receive 13%. That percentage works out at just £2.21 million for the winners and £1.95 million for the runners-up.

While the majority of the other SPL clubs rely on the TV revenue to supplement their ticket sales and other income, Celtic and Rangers make significantly more money from ticket sales than the money they receive from TV revenue. Last season alone, Celtic made approximately 15 times more money through ticket sales than they did with TV revenue, with TV money-making up just 3.16% of the Parkhead side’s 2010 turnover. This amount would have been more though if Celtic had progressed further in Europe.

SPL Statistics

According to the SPL Community Report 2011, 3.2 million fans attend games in the SPL each season. With 1 in 62 people in Scotland attending SPL games each week.

The report also states that 76 million watch SPL coverage on ESPN, Sky and the BBC each season, 2.7 million have a daily reach through newspapers and the radio audience is 4 million each week.

7.7 million watched SPL live games last season, with fans in over 100 countries watch the SPL games.

Current TV Coverage

Outwith the obligatory SKY Sports and ESPN coverage which is solely dedicated to covering live games or airing a highlights package. The two giants cover 30 live games each per season.

Coverage from within Scotland is the domain of the BBC, through BBC Scotland or BBC Alba. The latter, a Gaelic channel, show one game per week on a delayed basis on a Saturday night at 5.30pm, with Gaelic commentary. It also provides coverage of the SFL League Challenge Cup games.

The Scottish Football League also provide a half hourly programme in their online channel SFL tv which is published on the Official SFL website.

Highlights are available on Sky Sports and BBC Scotland on a Sunday, online highlights on the BBC website on a Sunday from 6pm.

However a significant amount of fans have slated the coverage of the Scottish game, with several who were questioned stated that the quality of the presenters and pundits was poor and such shows were lacking quality analysis and punditry. One fan even stated that the egos of said presenters and pundits got in the way.

A Scottish Football TV Channel

Rather than one programme or just the covering of live games why not have a dedicated TV Channel on Sky, Cable or available on Freeview/Freesat for a subscription fee?

I asked some fans what they would like to see in such a hypothetical TV Channel and they gave their views:

  • Such a channel would not only show SPL games, but would also cover SFL games not to mention domestic cup games. Not solely focused on the Old Firm.
  • Possibly even getting the rights to broadcast all Scottish club games in Europe and the international side also. On top of that why not cover Junior, Women’s and Under-19 Football? It would give a significant amount of coverage to our game from the lower echelons to the Premier League.
  • Games could be shown on the channel with live coverage, with delayed kick offs and a highlights show.
  • Full on demand highlights of every SPL game, Euro and Scotland games
  • It could also air a News programme which is aired every few hours from between 10 minutes – for short news bulletins – to half hour or hour-long programmes.
  • Featured and exclusive interviews with players, managers and legends within the Scottish game.
  • Classic Scottish football games from international and european matches to domestic games.
  • Documentaries – debate styled shows – fly on the way documentaries.
  • Saturday morning show – a jovial look at the less serious side of the game – similar to SoccerAM on Sky Sports.
  • A weekly comedy show hosted by some of Scotland’s top comedy acts where they have guests on to talk about football.
  • Programmes taking a closer look at the history of the Scottish game and the clubs.
  • Profiling of players in the game currently and behind the scenes at training sessions.
  • Celtic and Rangers TV could also come under the Scottish Football TV Channel umbrella with their own channels as part of the Scottish Football TV subscription.
  • The clubs could also have several adverts aired on the channel to promote ticket sales, events etc.

To promote said TV Channel those responsible could utilise the marketing power of SKY TV who have just over 10 million subscribers currently, while they can also utilise the newspapers and radio to reach their customer base. Not to mention the internet. A dedicated website with subscription details, a significant presence that will have news, features and interviews online also and utilise social networks sites – Twitter and Facebook – to reach a growing audience both in Scotland and abroad. While looking into applications for mobile phones and tablets also.

As for subscription costs that would be dependent on the money men, but from a fan’s input it would have to be affordable. There is no point having a brand spanking new Football channel and not be able to get it out to a wider audience if you price fans out of it.

In 2004, Setanta charged its customers £12.99 per month – on top of their SKY or Cable package. In 2011 to get all five Sky Sports channels it would cost £39.75 per month, not including the subscription to ESPN etc.

Why should such money go to the coffers of Rupert Murdoch and co. when it could be ploughed back into Scottish Football to help our clubs, to help grassroots football. How many Scottish Football fans would sign up to that dedicated channel?



About Author


Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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