You tubes! Can the SPFL do anything right?


Season 2012-13 saw the SPL [now SPFL]break from the norm of traditional media routes to secure a ‘groundbreaking deal’ with YouTube to broadcast match highlights of every SPL match.

The three year deal saw fans flock to watch the highlights every Sunday night at 6pm – before the mundane and borefest that was Sportscene [and still is]. YouTube even catered for Scottish football fans who live abroad – they were even given priority of match footage with the highlights available to them the night before UK & Ireland-based viewers.

At the time of the announcement, SPL commercial manager Stuart MacPhee, said: “Launching the ‘splofficial’ channel represents a new chapter in online fan engagement for our league.

“Making Clydesdale Bank Premier League content available on YouTube will allow fans to access all the best action, on and off the pitch, whenever they want and wherever they are, be it at home, on the laptop or on their smartphone on the bus to work.”

The deal was actually the first of its kind in British football as it provided fans to ‘catch all of the best goals, great saves and top tackles from the SPL. The channel would also cover pre and post-match reaction from players and managers’.

Stephen Nuttall, senior director of sports for YouTube Europe, Middle East and Africa, added: “Football fans worldwide naturally go to YouTube to catch up on goals and highlights. Our partnership with the Scottish Premier League will give the global YouTube audience access to all aspects of Scottish football from the best on-field action to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.”

But three years on, the SPFL have pulled the plug on match highlights with no announcement or level of media coverage as the initial YouTube deal.

SPFL pull the plug

Fans were puzzled, there was wide spread bewilderment at the SPFL pulling the plug especially when there was no statement.

Eventually the SPFL did publish comments on the 11th August. They tweeted: “Not doing highlights this season. Leaving that to BBC & club subscription channels. We’ll have ‘all the goals’ clips for every Prem fixture round but no commentary. Crowd noise only.”

They added later: “Whilst we loved putting out the highlights, we don’t want to cut across what clubs put out on their subscription chnls [channels].”

However it seems that all is not as it seems, Hearts posted the following tweet four days after the SPFL announcement:

So the SPFL requested clubs to no longer broadcast match footage on YouTube?

What happened to the ‘new chapter in online fan engagement’ for our game?

The SPFL are now leaving coverage of our game to the BBC through their god awful Sportscene programme and worse punditry. The other option is to subscribe to Sky and/or BT for all of half an hour to see their highlights show, subscribe to your club’s own channel – viewing only your club’s games and no one elses. Or we have to go onto STV Sport or pay for a subscription to access highlights on the Scottish Sun website.

It seems that the only fan engagement that the SPFL want to be part of is to milk the Scottish football fan for every penny they have.

Now if we go onto the SPFL YouTube channel we are subjected to two guys – I don’t have a clue who they are – rounding up each game within a 15 minute video on an inflatable sofa. Yes you read that right an inflatable sofa in their SPFL extra show.

Will the SPFL’s 50,309 [at the time of publication]subscribers continue to log onto the channel to watch the two SPFL interns discuss the game on a kids blow-up sofa? Will they log on to just see the goals?

I know I won’t be anymore. Will you?

If only the SPFL looked towards the MLS YouTube channel or even that of Copa90my favourite YouTube channel at the minute – for inspiration.

If the SPFL have utilised the YouTube channel to its potential – coupled with their own website and other social media sites – it could have been a credit to the Scottish game.

We could have broadcast games live via the channel as the likes of the MLS, Indian cricket league and other sports/football leagues do regularly. And this could have been monetised with the SPFL securing a significant percentage of this revenue for themselves.

But whoever is in control of the SPFL’s web and social media channels is far from the best person for the job. Its as if the whole process is a secondary thought for our league’s governing body.

With digital media now gaining a significant foothold within the media industry – the pitiful coverage that the SPFL produced and is now producing is worse than what any fan website can produce – who have significantly less funds at their disposal than the SPFL.

Why have the SPFL pulled the plug?

The SPFL are blaming the clubs, while the clubs are blaming the SPFL. But is it simply down to money and the deals that league body signed?

Looking specifically at the overseas market, the SPFL sold the rights to broadcast games to international sports rights agency MP & Silva in season 2013/14. AFTER the SPFL had signed the YouTube deal.

Back when the SPL/SPFL signed the deal they looked to secure a larger global audience, with the YouTube deal seen as the tool to drive towards that goal.

Has the SPFL pulled the plug because they only secured 50,000 subscribers? [The MLS are currently sitting at 206,601 subscribers.]

Is that why they have signed the NINE YEAR deal with MP & Silva? Who are the sole licensee of the SPFL’s broadcast rights in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

The SPFL [SPL] signed an exclusive agreement with SPORTFIVE International to secure the television rights for the remainder of the 2011-12 season through the 2013-2014 campaign. There is no news if this deal was extended or not – but at the time, Lex Gold executive chairman of the SPL, said: “SPORTFIVE has proven to be a professional, reliable and successful partner. This deal secures, and should increase, our international reach. At a time of economic difficulty we are delighted to do a deal that will bring in over £10 million for our clubs between now and 2014.”

Have MP & Silva and SPORTFIVE demanded the SPFL pull the plug on their YouTube coverage to safeguard their control of the overseas rights market?

The YouTube coverage which provided free highlights to the overseas fans would circumvent the exclusive rights agreements that MP & Silva and SPORTFIVE signed.

The clubs themselves?

Could what the SPFL have said be correct in part? Could some of the clubs have demanded the SPFL pull the plug on all the clubs publishing their footage on YouTube?

Should this decision not have been voted on? If so who voted for and against it?

And once again we go back to the lack of transparency from the SPFL. Nothing new there really.

Now what?

It seems the SPFL will continue to beg SKY and BT for the scraps left by the English Premier League. And the likes of Neil Doncaster and club officials seem happy enough with the status quo.

Just imagine if we had a governing body that was at the forefront of digital media, that were marketing experts and didn’t accept second best.

Sadly we don’t.


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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