By Rory West
Scottish Football, in the past 10 years, has continuously been on the wrong end of jokes, mocking our game. From an infamous video of some, admittedly poor football, head tennis in a Aberdeen vs Celtic game last season, the Rangers debacle with Joey Barton this year, European nightmares, to the national team’s atrocious performances; online jokers have had plenty ammunition to take a dig at the Scottish game.
In comparison to our English neighbours; our game is inferior, there’s no point hiding that fact. Teams in England’s third (possibly fourth) division are working with similar budgets to the majority of Scottish Premiership sides, despite some being no where near in stature.
Are sides such as MK Dons, Fleetwood or Scunthorpe – all performing well in England’s third division – bigger clubs than Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs? No is the answer. The can’t match those three Scottish clubs when it comes to history or fan base, yet manage to offer players similar wages and transfer fees due to mass amounts of money thrown at the English game.
Move yourself up the English leagues, and you find clubs such as Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea City spending three times the amount on transfer fees as Celtic do. Despite Celtic competing in some form of European competition every season in comparison to those three English sides; either battling relegation or yoyoing between Premier League and Championship, they can still offer players much more money.
While it all makes sense through mega TV deals, Celtic more than stood their own against one of English football’s super powers, Manchester City, in this season’s Champions League group stages, drawing home and away.While Celtic never qualified for either the Champions League or Europa League knockout stages, their European performances this season were credible against very tough opponents.
If in the same position as some of these lesser English clubs, you would like to think; if given the same sort of money, with their huge fan base, Celtic would be within the top seven in the English Premier League.
Ever since the introduction of BT Sport to the televised football market, they have put in more effort with Scottish football, than Sky ever have. They haven’t been able to solely stake a club and taking the majority of games, however what they have done that is clever; is picking intriguing games that may be a gamble but a gamble that there is no chance in hell Sky would take.
BT Sport also, at the end of last season, purchased the TV rights to the , then, League Cup; re-branding it as the Betfred Cup. This proved to be a brilliant business decision with the introduction of the group stage format proving exciting and allowing fans to watch games, from stadiums, they normally wouldn’t. The tournament overall, was exciting; producing entertaining football and memorable moments.
A factor that has pushed BT’s coverage of Scottish football on; is their choice of pundits. Unlike Sky’s un-interested, tired figures; BT have introduced refreshing, engaging and interesting figures; such as Chris Sutton, Michael Stewart and Stephen Craigan. Some of the highlights so far this season have been the debates between the three. Who will forget the infamous barmy between Sutton and Craigan over, then new, Hearts boss Ian Cathro.
Something that will probably shock English clubs but up here Scottish clubs genuinely do take the cup competitions seriously. Unlike our English counter parts, even when it comes to the early rounds of competitions; all the big clubs put out strong teams, no matter who the opposition are.
It comes as no shock how there were barely any cup shocks in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup – where the Premiership clubs enter. When the term “Magic of the cup” is branded around in Scotland, instead of a lower league side managing to draw Celtic or Rangers in a one off game, where they will no doubt get hammered, it means one of the clubs outside – let’s be honest Celtic now – winning the tournament. Forget any cup shock, if there should be an example of the “Magic of the cup” it should be the scenes in the Hibs end last season after they won their first Scottish Cup in 113 years.
Football would be nothing without the supporters and that old cliche is more important to Scotland than anywhere else. Scottish football has always struggled, with large amounts of people throughout the country choosing to support one of the Old Firm, rather than their local team.
It is always a frustrating sight, when you’re watching Sportscene on a Sunday night and some of the games are being played in front of completely empty stands. However crowds are beginning to find their way back to stadiums and that is vital for clubs.
Scottish supporters are some of the most passionate supporters in the Europe, travelling miles to go and watch their team.
Choose Scottish Football
All in all, our game up here isn’t all that bad. Admittedly we have been culpable for the odd moment but sometimes that can bring our game back down to Earth, taking football back to its roots; before clubs were franchises and world wide businesses.
The standard of our game can be quite poor at some times but it is not as though every league in the world produces, end to end, enthralling games every week. And from time to time we can produce games were people would sit up and take notice of what the standard actually can be like. Not the perceived long balls and head tennis stigma that has been thrust upon Scottish Football.
So next time you’re flicking through the channels and spot a Scottish game on, take a gamble and choose Scottish Football.