WAY back in a simpler time, the only way to get your hands on some good old fashioned pirate material was to buy it off a dodgy geezer that would come into the boozer with a leather Head holdall slung over his shoulder.

Even then, at the very best his selection of wares was mainly limited to films that had been in the cinema for a month or two before they officially hit your local Blockbuster or Global Video.

Sports content? Forget it. If you were lucky, he might be in a possession of a copy of “101 Great Goals with Des Lynam” or “Saint and Greavesy’s Soccer Bloopers” or some such, but live football in those days was very much a precious commodity.

When it comes to broadcasting agreements in Scottish football though, it appears that the rules have failed to move with the times, with little recognition being paid to the fact that the proliferation of affordable ‘hooky telly’ through IPTV has completely changed the game.

For around £40 to £90 a year (so I’m told), anyone with a Firestick can get access to just about any channel in the world on their telly, phone or tablet.

It may not be one hundred percent reliable, and it is certainly less than one hundred percent legal, but a football fan’s moral code is no match for their desire to see their team in action. And when left with no legal means to watch a game involving their club, what else are they going to do?

That is the situation many fans will be facing this weekend and throughout the season, with pre-Covid rules kicking back in that forbid clubs from streaming their matches to fans who live in the UK and Ireland.

The argument for such a regulation goes that it prevents punters from actually going to the game, and for a small number, it may very well be the case that if it’s a toss up between staying on the couch with a few beers versus a more costly trip to the match (particularly in the depths of winter), the availability of a pay-per-view stream may influence their decision.

So what? It seems archaic to be flatly rejecting potential income at a time when many of our clubs could certainly do with exhausting every potential revenue stream.

There will also be fans out there who due to extenuating circumstances such as financial constraints (you may have seen something about a crippling cost of living crisis in the news), or even through ill health or disability are unable to attend a match in person, but would be happy to pay a tenner or thereabouts to see their team play live on the telly.

What such an argument also fails to address is that there will be many matches that do sell out over the course of the season, so what then?

This is far from solely a Celtic and Rangers problem, but as a prime example of what I’m driving at, it just so happens that both are playing at 3pm this Saturday, and their games will not be broadcast on Sky.

There will no doubt be many a tiny violin being played out there at this juncture by fans of other teams who rarely get to see their side on television unless they are playing against one of the Glasgow giants, and also from match-going fans, who are often the victims of ridiculous scheduling. But as a starting point, how does it make one iota of sense that ticketless supporters have no legal means by which to watch these matches?

I had to snigger at Neil Doncaster’s proclamation of a ‘crackdown’ on pubs showing matches through IPTV this week, which gave off the same futile energy as those bizarre photos the police release of themselves looking stern in front of confiscated carry-oots.

I hate to break it to you gents but, try as you might to stick your finger in the dike, it burst a long time ago. The Somalian Coastguard would have a better shot at cracking down on piracy than Doncaster.

Those who have IPTV, have it, just as those who enjoy a wee bottle of Mad Dog on the train, shall continue to do so.

Clubs should be able to target those who not only want to watch their team at home - for whatever reason - but who also wouldn’t mind putting a few quid the way of their club in the process, rather than literally pushing them towards other channels.

So, the next broadcasting contract – at a bare minimum – should contain a rule tweak; once a match that isn’t being shown by the official broadcaster is sold out, clubs should be able to sell an official stream to maximise revenues. It doesn’t hurt Sky in the pocket, and could help clubs significantly line their own.

From there, the conversation should widen to debate the merits of opening up all non-broadcast matches to live streaming.

If the objection really is about incentivising fans to come along on the day to a game, then many of the hurdles that clubs themselves are currently throwing down in the path of punters wouldn’t be in place, such as the rapid disappearance of on-the-day ticket sales or making away fans pick up tickets from their own club during working hours, no matter how far away the stadium may be from the supporter’s house.

That is a whole other topic for another day, though. On the subject at hand, it would seem to be common sense that if fans are desperate to watch a game, why not give them the means to, while directing money into the game that will otherwise go the way of the digital age Del Boys.