The Scottish Government has announced it will launch a consultation on making the national football team's qualifying matches free-to-air.

The men's and women's matches at major tournaments such as the European Championships or World Cup are protected and therefore must be broadcast on free-to-air television.

However, that is not the case for qualifying matches which are sold as a bloc by UEFA and are often on subscription services such as Viaplay.

Broadcasting policy is a reserved matter, with the UK government deciding which tournaments and events are protected.

The Scottish Government has said it will enact a consultation to evaluate the balance between the ability of Scottish rights holders, such as the SFA, to generate income to reinvest in Scottish sports, and access for Scottish audiences to sporting events.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government is taking a further step towards making major Scotland international football matches available free-to-air, which would allow the whole country to get behind our national teams in important qualifying fixtures.

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“Scots celebrated as our men’s national team charged their way on scintillating form into this year’s Euro Championships, and we’ll all be behind the women’s national team when their qualifiers get underway next month, but most Scots are blocked from watching the national team with the bulk of games shown on a pay-per-view basis.  

"With so much at stake in qualifiers, our vision is for all fans to be able to watch their national teams as they battle to reach the world’s biggest competitions.

“With the full powers of independence, the Scottish Government would have the power to determine the list of events that should be available to broadcast free-to-air to reflect the interests of Scottish audiences, and enable broadcasters who have a public service remit to better meet these needs.

“But broadcasting policy is currently reserved to the UK Government, and only Westminster can add these matches being included in the so-called 'crown jewels' of international sporting fixtures for free-to-air broadcast.

“With the UK Government refusing to act to resolve the situation for Scotland fans, the Scottish Government will launch a consultation on the issue to help progress the campaign to ensure Scotland international qualifying matches are on terrestrial TV.

“Further evaluation work will be taken forward to understand the implications such a decision would have for rights holders, including the SFA, before the Scottish Government’s case is brought forward to the UK Government.”

The conversation surrounding free-to-air Scotland matches has rumbled on for over a decade, with former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond pushing for them to be included among the 'crown jewels' in 2008, 10 events, including the World Cup, the European Football Championships, the Olympic Games and the Scottish and English FA Cup finals, which are protected for terrestrial television.

Last year SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and the party's spokesperson for Transport in the House of Commons, Gavin Newlands, held a roundtable discussion with broadcasters as part of his ongoing campaign for free-to-watch international matches. A petition on the SNP's website has, at time of writing, garnered over 2000 signatures in support of the proposal,

In response to the petition the Scottish Football Association has repeatedly stated that UEFA, European football's governing body, has control over the TV rights for international matches.

Addressing MSPs at Holyrood's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee last year, SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: "Anyone can bid for our national team rights, it’s centralised through UEFA, it’s open for anybody to bid for them.”

Maxwell added: "Ultimately, it comes down to value, it comes down to finance. We receive money from the UEFA centralised deal, we then use that money to go and do the good work we do across the country.

“As long as those financial terms are met, anyone could show our games. I would love our games to be free-to-air, but it ultimately comes down to the free-to-air broadcasters and whether or not they can they commit the required finance."

Scotland will face Germany, Hungary and Switzerland in Group A in this summer's Euro 2024. 

Steve Clarke's men face hosts Germany in the opening match of the tournament on June 14 at 8pm, Switzerland in Cologne on June 19 at 8pm and Hungary in Stuttgart at 8pm on June 23.