April 2002
TV dream is dead

SPL TV is killed off. Meaningless end-of-season matches. Celtic win the League. Silences at football matches.


TV or not TV?

SPL TV is dead. Strangled in infancy by a pair of greedy villains from Glasgow. Or so some would have us believe. But let’s get one thing clear. The Old Firm didn’t kill off the project because it was going to make the other clubs a fortune. If it had been a viable concern, the Gruesome Twosome would have been its biggest advocates. Sure, the big two are acting out of self-interest. Certainly, the bigger the trough, the longer their snouts become. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that.`

Consider the fantasy planet inhabited by SPL Chairman Lex Gold and his henchmen Rod Petrie and Roger Mitchell. According to this trio, this was a world-class concept which other countries envied. All that was needed was to push the button and the cash would come rolling in. Then the nasty big bullies from Glasgow brought the whole thing crashing down.

Get real. If SPL TV was such a great idea then Celtic and Rangers would have been at the forefront of it. The other countries talked about (but never named) would have been launching their own channels. In any case Gold and Petrie are a fine pair to start spouting off about visions for the future. Their vision at their own club, Hibs, extended to appointing a manager who was sacked 69 days later! Can anyone seriously imagine multi-million pound institutions falling over in the stampede to invest in a project led by this mob at a time when televised football is in crisis all over Europe?

The facts are as follows: The SPL is a poor League, both in terms of competition and talent. It has an appeal almost strictly confined to its own country. The only exceptions to this are the Old Firm. They have a worldwide base of support and they know it. Under the existing deal with Sky, these are the only two teams who get a look in. Just two matches have been televised this season which didn’t feature either Rangers or Celtic.

Like it or not (and I for one, don’t) this is the world we live in. In the one inhabited by the SPL chiefs there is a huge market out there crying out for Motherwell V St Johnstone live and pay-per-view. They know. Roger Mitchell has spoken. How dare anyone question them? In this world Gold, Petrie and Mitchell are the repository of truth. Everyone who questioned the validity of the concept is wrong. That’s the BBC, ITV, and the vast majority of the sporting press – in other words, everyone involved in the media knows less about the workings of the media than the Hibs duo and Mitchell.

In order for SPL TV to have worked it would have needed 250,000 subscribers. That’s 250,000 people who would have given up their existing satellite packages – the Premiership, La Liga, the Bundesliga, the Ryder Cup, boxing, cricket, tennis, snooker etc, for the dubious delights of the SPL. They would have waved goodbye to an exciting end to the biggest leagues in Europe in order to watch meaningless matches after the split. To put it in language that Roger Mitchell can understand, anyone who thought SPL TV was a viable concept must have been smoking dope.

That is not to absolve the Old Firm. As predicted here right at the start of the whole sorry affair, their greed has overwhelmed the others. No surprises there. Noises are being made, particularly by Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston, about going it alone without the Ugly Sisters. If the best that can be managed without the Old Firm is two games a season now, what TV package would be sold then?

Everyone has lost through this. The Old Firm have proved once again (if it was ever in doubt) that they cannot be trusted. The others have led or allowed themselves to be led towards a fool’s paradise. Clubs will not be able to retain their best talents. Fans will see a poorer quality of football thanks to a loss of revenue. Yet there was an offer on the table from Sky of £45M. That was rejected because it was the same as the previous deal. At a time when ITV Digital was collapsing in full public view, the SPL went collectively mad and thought they could up the ante. They should have grabbed the Sky money and ran.

Perhaps the Old Firm have even, inadvertently, done everyone else a favour (they certainly owe us plenty). Even if they do leave for a glorious future in Rotherham, Grimsby and the other marvellous attractions of the Nationwide League, their legacy to Scottish football may be the prevention of mass bankruptcy. For if SPL TV had gone ahead then its inevitable failure would have landed our clubs with a debt that would have crippled them for decades to come.

Oh, and if the Old Firm want to move to another country, let them. Provided that its Ireland during the potato famine for Celtic and Victorian England for Rangers. After all, that’s where their supporters seem to be most at home.

The four years the SPL has been in existence has been the worst period of Old Firm domination in history. Not a single trophy has gone elsewhere. The brave new world has been a nightmare Perhaps it would be best to bin the SPL and return to a single, unified, Scottish Football League. After all, that muddled its way through for over a century.

Plus ca change?

What are Scottish supporters to do from now until the end of the season, given that virtually every SPL fixture is meaningless?

Some Kilmarnock supporters have come up with the idea of a Big Day Out for their home game with Motherwell on April 27th. This will apparently involve drinking beer, eating pies and singing songs.

As if that stunning change to routine isn’t enough, the lads from Killie’s Rivals site are planning a friendly match between internet elevens in the morning and making their Player of the Year award in the evening. Anything to brighten up a dull finale is to be welcomed and you can find out more here.


Silence Isn’t Golden

Let’s get the easy bit out of the way first. Celtic clinched the League title in some style with a 5-1 victory over Livingston. Their football was a joy to behold: good movement, slick passing, clinical finishing. And even if the opposition gave the impression that they would rather be anywhere else than Parkhead on title-winning day, it didn’t matter. Martin O’Neill’s team were far and away the best in the country and thoroughly deserved their triumph.

However, much has been made of events before the game, namely the minute’s silence to mark the death of the Queen Mother and its lack of observance by large sections of the Celtic support. In fact, Referee Willie Young sensibly blew for kick-off after just 32 seconds. The behaviour of those who whistled, chanted and booed for that half minute has brought the whole issue of remembrances at football matches into the spotlight.

While this writer regards the actions of those Celtic supporters who failed to observe the silence as moronic and counter-productive to whatever cause they purport to represent, it is only fair to say that the problem should never have occurred. I have yet to meet anyone who can make a convincing case as to why this silence was imposed on football clubs.

I don’t want to go back to the bad old days when football was so insular that it ignored the outside world entirely. On New Year’s Day 1929 for instance, Paisley was a town in mourning after scores of children lost their life in a cinema fire on Hogmanay. St Mirren and Kilmarnock requested a postponement of their scheduled fixture and were told in no uncertain terms by the League that the game must be played.

Those callous days are gone, thank goodness. But it appears that things have gone to the other extreme. At the televised Hearts V Rangers game there was a silence in memory of Princess Margaret but not at other Scottish games. Why? Would the deceased even have known Hearts and Rangers were football clubs? Did she have any interest in football whatsoever? To the best of my knowledge she was never seen in among a crowd of bears belting out “God save my gracious big sister.”

As for her mother, it is surely the irony of ironies that after the SPL had fiddled the fixture list so as to get Celtic’s title-winning celebrations out of the way before Rangers next come calling, that the old woman died, leaving the Parkhead side in a no-win situation. Not to observe a silence and they would have been dumped on from a great height by all and sundry. Observe it and it was inevitable that a lot of their fans wouldn’t.

To be fair to Celtic, their supporters have a point when they ask why they should commemorate a monarchy which doesn’t allow Catholics to become sovereign. But it runs much deeper than that and anyone who thinks Celtic supporters would turn into flag-waving royalists if Prince Charles had copped off with Mother Theresa instead of Camilla is well wide of the mark.

Anyone who witnessed the after-match celebrations at Parkhead would have had no illusions as to where their supporters true allegiance still lies. “Fields of Athenry,’ “The Wild Rover,” “Black Velvet Band,” – they were just some of the anthems on display. Whilst not denying that Celtic have a right to celebrate their roots, nor that they know a good tune when they hear one, isn’t it just a little bit sad that after 114 years there was nothing distinctly Scottish about their party? In any case, having once had the misfortune to visit Athenry, all I can say is give me Botany Bay any day of the week!

But back to the silences. What is to be done? I can’t see how any hard and fast rules would work, let alone satisfy everybody. Just five years ago there was uproar when Jim Farry wanted Scotland (in my view, correctly)to go ahead with a World Cup qualifier on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. Yet back in 1965 on the day of Winston Churchill’s funeral, the full English and Scottish programme went ahead. Yet I doubt if even the most fervent of royalists would claim that either Diana or the Queen Mother was a more important figure in British history than Churchill.

Even this season there has been inconsistency. UEFA fixtures were postponed in the wake of September 11th, but the Scottish League Cup carried on serenely as if nothing had happened! Given that it is impossible to satisfy everybody, I would (and some of you may have already caught this on Monday Night Live) as a rule of thumb propose the following as far as silences are concerned:

Terrible events like Sep 11th or an earthquake – YES
Football tragedies like Heysel or Bradford –YES
The deaths of footballing legends like Jim Baxter or Bobby Murdoch – YES
Pampered centenarian aristocrats and spoilt princesses with no known interest in the game – NO



www.soccer-sites.com, Click the logo to go to the free soccer only search engine.

Click here to download sample pdf files Back to homepage Click here to download sample pdf files BLUE-WEB INTERNET DESIGN