Keep The Games Off The Freeview Box

Last updated : 18 March 2010 By Ed_ScottishFitba
The SFA's chief executive, Gordon Smith is worried that the golden calf of live international games will be killed if the Government were to adopt proposals to make Scotland's World Cup and European Championship qualifying game free-to-air. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) set up a consultation of the recommendation from a panel which last year undertook the first review of free-to-air listed sporting events since 1998. The consultation period on the proposals ends tomorrow (Friday) and the SFA are vehemently opposed to the recommendation that Scotland's home and away qualifiers should be added to the list. This would lead to the SFA waving goodbye to income of up to £12million a year, something they claim would be disastrous for the Scottish game. Smith said: "We have made our submission to the DCMS and now that the consultation period is coming to an end, we are hopeful they will take our arguments on board, see the problems it would cause us and bring a sensible approach to the situation."

The panel was chaired by former Football Association director David Davies, who has admitted they did not consider the amount of money a sport might lose when reaching their conclusions. Smith said: "To ignore the financial implications of this is extraordinary. For the SFA, our television deal is by far our biggest and most important source of income. If our matches were to become listed, then we would almost certainly end up in a situation where the BBC were the only bidders. As it stands, STV are just not in the market. I used to work for the BBC and have no axe to grind with them. But why would they pay us the kind of money we are getting at the moment when they didn't have to? If this is pushed through by the government, the SFA believe we could see our level of broadcasting income halved after our current (Sky) deal ends in 2014. It would impact badly on our work in football at every level, from the grassroots right through to the senior international side."

it is no surprise that surveys have shown the vast majority of people would be in favour of free-to-air coverage. Smith said: "I can understand that kind of response. But I would expect the same kind of thing if people were asked if they would rather have free public transport or have to pay for it. As it stands, the SFA feel we have a good balance in our broadcasting contract at the moment with live coverage on BSkyB and highlights on BBC Scotland. It is important for us, if we are going to maintain a proper level of investment in all aspects of our game, that the market for our broadcasting rights remains competitive."
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)

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