The Dirty Dozen

"The 10 SPL clubs intend to resign within the next 24 hours,” quoth Bryan Jackson. Bryan Who?, you ask. He’s the man who sold Clydebank to Airdrie and is now in charge of Motherwell while they are in administration.

In other words he’s not really got anything to do with football. And while not everybody at Fir Park was unhappy to see the back of the garrulous John Boyle, Motherwell fans can’t be all that thrilled to see an accountant with no ties to the club whatsoever posing as the voice of Scottish football.

We - the poor punters - are left in a state of bewilderment at the latest manoeuvres in the SPL. The Old Firm’s argument is that they are the lead act and no one is interested in the warm-up turns so they deserve most of the loot and a veto over decision-making.

The ten say they are making a stand for democracy and justice.

Both have a point. This website has no truck with the way Rangers and Celtic have manipulated the Scottish game for over a century to satisfy their own warped agenda. These two clubs rely on the bitter and irrational hatreds of centuries past to nurture their support base. Yet when it comes to matters of money, these supposed rivals exhibit a solidarity that committed trade unionists would die for.

But, as they point out, many of the faces now ranged against them, were all too happy to sit down just four short years ago and agree to the present SPL arrangements. They thought that there would be sufficient crumbs from the rich man’s table to fatten them up year after year.

On the other side, the ten were surprised to find that, having given the Old Firm carte blanche, the Glasgow duo proceeded to carry on in their own imperious way - wrecking proposed deals by widespread leaking of their intention to fly the nest the others had so supinely allowed them to feather.

The Old Firm now say that they will move to a fairer voting scheme - but only if any really important matters remain subject to their veto. The others say this is totally unacceptable and then vote through a TV deal that allows the Old Firm to keep their present percentage take!

Truly, you could not make this up. TV was the battlecry of the ten. When the big two pulled the plug on SPL TV, it was either the straw that broke the camel’s back or the barrier of excrement on the ground that forced the worms to turn. Take your pick.

When SPL TV was first mooted, we said on this website that the Old Firm were interested in bigger things. That they wanted their own pay-per-view channels. Evidence of that came forth this week when the Ugly Sisters promptly vetoed radio and internet deals, while allowing the BBC TV bid to go ahead.

The despicable duo want to control broadcasting through their own official websites. If that ground is conceded then a similar TV arrangement can only be a matter of time.

In the meantime all twelve clubs will continue to treat their supporters with disdain while doing nothing to address the decline in standards of play.

Our game is facing the worst crisis in its long history. Many of the problems are self-inflicted. At a time when leadership has never been more needed, what are we left with? Men with the diplomatic skills of Alf Garnett and the vision of Mr Magoo.

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The one thing that has been agreed by the SPL is a TV agreement. They’ve signed up with the BBC for a deal which lasts for half as long as the offer from Sky was for and is worth one third less. So much for the business acumen of our administrators. Wall Street? This mob shouldn’t be let loose on Sesame Street. And as for the fans? Well, they’ve left us in Shit Street.

A match will be broadcast live at 2pm each Sunday. BUT ONLY IN SCOTLAND. With the exception of the four Old Firm encounters, every other BBC licence-payer in the UK (and we’ve all helped fund this deal) will be stuck with the usual Sunday afternoon diet of 40-year old Disney movies and two-hour repeats of Eastenders.

Everyone involved is to blame here. The SPL for their greed in thinking that they could get Sky to up the ante at a time when TV cash for football was in freefall worldwide. The Old Firm for wrecking any chances of a Sky deal with their pipedream plans to move out of Scotland. All the clubs again for not properly considering a Channel 5 proposal which would have guaranteed a UK-wide audience. And the BBC, for only being interested in showing Old Firm derbies to a wider viewing public.

This last point is curious. The BBC seems to be saying that there is an audience for the big two. Since virtually every game they cover will feature one of the gruesome twosome, surely there’s a sizeable number who would be interested in watching?

In the past the BBC have justified blocking access to Scottish football by waffling on about agreements being localised. The very fact that they are now intent on showing the Old Firm derbies south of the border blows that argument out of the water. Yet they insist that those of us domiciled south of the Solway will have to be content with a back four of Mitchell, Beale, Fowler and Slater every Sunday.

Sunday afternoons are a graveyard slot for TV. I would have thought that anything that increases viewing share would have been welcome. Apparently not.

Even odder, the BBC have been rightly proud of the fact that they have, for the past two seasons, broadcast every SPL match live on the Internet. They’ve no objections to you listening in Burundi but won’t let you watch in Berwick!

Nor do the BBC object to anyone listening to a live broadcast on digital radio. In fact they’re keen to get you to do so. Only Old Firm greed is holding up an agreement. Someone needs to tell the Beeb. For they’re still heavily promoting their radio and web broadcasts on their website.

So why not broadcast live football on BBC2? There really is no case against it. We’ll be consulting with others and coming back with proposals for action if the BBC don’t see sense on this.

The only real objection the BBC can make to showing live matches to a UK-wide audience is that our clubs don’t seem to be too bothered about it. Announcing the deal, SPL Chairman, Lex Gold, said: "This agreement brings Premier League football into every home in Scotland."

And keeps it out of the homes of thousands of licence-paying Scottish football fans in the rest of the UK, was what he DIDN'T add. Kilmarnock Chief Executive David Heath demonstrated his mastery of the Book of Blairspeak by saying the deal represented: " A modern league moving forward.”

Aye, David, moving forward into the 1960s!

Our clubs had the chance to show how much they cared about their exiled supporters. And they dumped on them from a great height. Of course a cynic might say that the SPL don’t want anyone outside of Scotland to see just how bad our game is!

Our club bosses need to realise that this is the 21st century - the age of the global village. Yet they have opted to blithely carry on in their insular manner, ignoring any potential for expanding their audience. If they are happy to ignore the supporters, they shouldn’t be too surprised to find supporters ignoring them.

The children of exiled Scots will end up watching - and supporting - teams in the Premiership and the Nationwide and an opportunity to gain new supporters will be lost

The game is desperate for supporters. Yet here are thousands of fans who actually WANT to watch Scottish football being denied the opportunity to do so.

As for the SPL’s official website... What a waste of cyberspace. Click on the link to live TV broadcasts and it brings up a list which is dated last January! You would have found out more about what was going on in sports section of the Greenland Gazette than is on offer there.

What does SPL chief executive Roger Mitchell have to say about it all? The man who couldn’t put together a fixture list on a bank holiday weekend last season is strangely silent right now.

Perhaps the BBC have got it right after all. Maybe the only Mitchells worth listening to on a Sunday are Peggy and Phil!

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