Literally. Over the past few days there has been a rush to acclaim the contracts signed with the two broadcasters and the palpable sense of relief – from club boardrooms and governing bodies – has been understandable. Supporters of most clubs have embraced the deals, too, as a repudiation of the line they'd been fed that the game would disappear down the plughole if Rangers were sent down the leagues.
For the second summer in four years, the SPL was left desperately scrambling for the oxygen mask of a new television deal after the collapse of a central pillar (Setanta Sports in 2009, Rangers in 2012). For the second time they've pulled something out of the fire. But the alarm bells? Those are on clocks owned by the fans themselves, whose loyalty will continue to be abused as the price to pay for television companies propping up the game. For the Old Firm clubs in particular, changed dates and early kick-offs are already coming thick and fast.
This whole television episode has been wounding for Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster, the men at the head of the SFA and SPL. Whatever trust or credibility they had with most supporters has gone and won't be easily regained. Both had played the Private Frazer card – "we're doomed" – about the consequences of Rangers' prolonged exclusion from the top flight and, as things stand, that looks like quite a misjudgment.
Doncaster, despite having working relationships with them from previous negotiations, seemed to misread the likelihood of Sky and ESPN retaining any valuable involvement. The SPL's bargaining position was substantially weakened by the fact the broadcasters came to the table knowing he already had sounded desperate. It was a buyer's market. The chief executive actually ended up securing a good bit of business – salvaging most of the previous deal's value even without Rangers in his league – but it should have been handled better. The new deal is a lifeline. It will prevent cuts and redundancies and possibly even ensure no other SPL clubs follow Rangers into administration or worse. The game is enhanced by ESPN and especially Sky's excellent coverage.
But, even so, Scottish football's dependence and subservience to television is regrettable. The clubs with the biggest travelling supports most weekends, Celtic and Rangers, have by far the greatest frequency of scheduling changes for the broadcasters.
Rangers' life in the third division starts on Saturday with a trip to Peterhead. On the basis of getting there an hour before kick-off, supporters in Glasgow will have to be on the road by at least 7.45am. Their next league game is a noon kick-off on a Sunday in Berwick-upon-Tweed, so they'll have to be on the road before 9am. They face the probability of a morning arrival in Annan next month, in Elgin in November, Montrose in December and Peterhead again in January. It isn't straightforward to reach some of these places at that hour via public transport from the central belt.
Most of their away games will be moved and so will Celtic's. Any Celtic fan in Glasgow who intends to go to their next league game against Ross County will have to leave around 7.30am in order to reach Dingwall in time, and just about the same again a week later when they return to the Highlands to face Caledonian Thistle. By the end of this month, Celtic will have played 12 competitive or friendly matches and not one will have started at 3pm on a Saturday.
Highland and north-east supporters travel enormous distances on a fortnightly basis, of course, and Aberdeen's followers were required to be in Glasgow for a lunchtime kick-off at the weekend. It can always be done, but the enjoyment of an away trip is getting to a place with at least a couple of hours to spare and making a day of it, not leaving at the crack of dawn in order to simply get parked and into the ground shortly before the game starts. Those who can still be bothered deserve real credit.
The Sky and ESPN deals prolong a financial model which relies on television money to prop up standards and preserve jobs.
When league reconstruction is next discussed, let the governing bodies find space on the agenda for reducing the number of early kick-offs and showing supporters some overdue respect.
There used to be a tendency to blame the rest of the league whenever Celtic or Rangers made a mess of things in Europe. The argument made on their behalf was that the standard of opposition provided by the rest of the SPL was so poor it left them hopelessly unprepared when they had to make several steps up in class against European opposition.
On a similar basis, Rangers can have no grounds for complaint if their Scottish players are overlooked by the international team while they are in, especially, the third and second divisions. Those who have caps or would be hopeful of them in this World Cup season – Lee Wallace, Ian Black, Neil Alexander, Lee McCulloch and Kirk Broadfoot – simply aren't going to be asked the sort of questions necessary to keep them sharp enough for Scotland duty. Unless there's an emergency, none of them should expect to be called up by Craig Levein for the forseeable future, starting with his announcement this morning of the squad to face Australia a week on Wednesday.
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