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Is it time the broadcasters gave fans a better deal?

Date: 11th August 2017

Scrolling through social media as everyone does these days, I came across a fan asking his followers “will match X definitely be on the date set? Away to try and book cheap train tickets but don’t want to miss out in case it is moved for TV?” Is it now accepted common practice for broadcasters to reschedule games at late notice, leaving numerous fans out of pocket who had already purchased and arranged travel for the match? At Supporters Direct Scotland we believe that more should be done to give fans a helping hand when it comes to attending matches.

The price of football is undeniably rising and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for supporters to find the money to fund trips to football games across the country on a regular basis. With travel now becoming as expensive as the matches themselves supporters, as with our case study above, are now looking to book travel months in advance as to mitigate costs. As a result, with the broadcasters in Scotland having such a powerful voice in the game and at liberty to dictate the scheduling and re-arrangement of games it often leaves supporters who have pre-planned travel out of pocket. The uncertainty of match dates coupled with the cost of travel will undoubtedly dissuade fans from forking out their hard earned cash to follow their side at the weekend.

Scottish football is at a stage where it can’t afford to be convincing fans to stay away it needs to be giving them a reason to come through the turnstiles. SD Scotland believes that the broadcasters could do more to help out fans that have been left at a disadvantage through the rescheduling of matches. This could be supported through numerous schemes such as running free busses for away fans to and from rescheduled matches or perhaps subsiding travel for fans that have already purchased train travel in advance. An approach could be to help push through something similar to the comments from Labour’s Tom Watson as he called for “More flexible rail ticketing to help away fans”. The idea broached by the Shadow Sport Secretary is a train ticket that is bought in advance can be swapped to an alternative day free of charge. Another method could be to validate tickets over an entire weekend which would alleviate fears of fans in that their game could be switched to a Friday evening or Sunday lunch time kick off.

SD Scotland conducted some formal research with fan groups to get a specific idea of what issues are at the forefront of supporters minds across the country. Coming out at number one was an assurance of at least a six week notice period for any fixture changes. Second to that was a revised ticket structure for matches that are shown live on television while the distances between the two clubs to be taken into consideration came in third.

There are numerous ways for broadcasters to engage with and appease fans whilst still delivering their multi-million pound TV coverage of Scottish football. With the ever growing use of social media from corporate businesses and regular fans alike the medium is there for sponsors and broadcasters to engage with fans and promote themselves through these proposed schemes. Also, providing such initiatives would go a long way to bettering the reputations of the broadcasting companies within Scotland and prove that they are very much about investing in Scottish football as a whole, going beyond screening TV games to homes around the nation.

While we seek for more engagement from broadcasters with Scottish fans we are also looking ourselves at Supporters Direct Scotland to open up a regular dialogue with the TV companies. We recognise the significant annual investment TV companies make into Scottish football. We’re also sure that low attendances don’t look great as a TV spectacle and due to this SD Scotland wants to build a direct relationship with Sky Sports, BT Sport and BBC Scotland with a regular course of meetings. We know there must always be compromises, but we believe there’s a real opportunity for us to work together to promote the game we love.

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