Fans vote overwhelmingly for Scotland games to be shown free on TV
Members of the Tartan Army call for an end to subscription fees for national team matches
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Scotland fans have issued their loudest call yet for international matches to be shown free on television. The Tartan Army want men's games broadcast on terrestrial channels or screened without subscription in future, as is the case in most European countries.
Scotland is one of only seven nations where national team fixtures are behind a paywall. Nordic company Viaplay Sports currently own the rights to Scotland games and charge £180 each year for a subscription to watch them. Their deal runs until 2028 if they wish to continue broadcasting UK sport. However, Scottish fans can watch England for free on Channel 4 and supporters are now demanding change.
In a survey conducted by the Scottish Football Supporters Association, more than 99 per cent of fans polled said matches should be free to view. The SFSA canvassed around 3,000 people across all age-groups, clubs and locations to garner a consensus. Their research returned an overwhelming vote in favour of Scotland games being free in order to help fans of all ages engage with the national team and inspire youngsters.
The survey also concluded that 69 per cent of people don't currently watch the men's national team. Over 97 per cent felt more children would take part in football if they could watch the national team on TV. Just 17 per cent of supporters admitted they subscribe to Viaplay, and 85 per cent said they watch Scotland less since pay-per-view television came in. More than 96 per cent agreed that the current price to watch Scotland on television is unfair.
National coach Steve Clarke has already guided the country to next summer's European Championship finals in Germany, which will be shown on terrestrial TV. It remains to be seen whether Viaplay will continue their agreement into next year amid reports of cost-cutting within the company.
The SFSA have launched a petition at www.scotlandgamesfreeontv.org in an effort to generate more support for their cause. Gavin Newlands, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, threw his weight behind the campaign.
"Scotland is out of kilter with what is happening with national team matches, not just across Europe but also next door," he said. "That will surprise many people and it is unfair. The SFSA survey shows huge appetite for change. We ask all fans to combine on this one and work with us. Please fill in our Change.org petition. Together we can win, and win for the better, for all."
Rose Reilly, a trailblazer for women’s football in Scotland, is also in support. "Everyone, women, men, girls, and boys wants to see Scotland games free on TV, as is the case in England, Wales, and all over Europe," she stated.
"We’d like every child, boy or girl, who has a dream of one day pulling on our famous blue shirt to be able to watch their heroes every time they step onto the pitch, without any financial barriers. History tells us that football makes many mistakes. Well we can also judge those who run our game by how they address the mistakes they make, mistakes like this."
SFSA chairman Andy Smith argued that the Scottish Football Association have a commercial decision to make. "I understand that the SFA have a constant requirement for revenues to be able to continue undertaking the good works they do, but restricting our games behind the pay-per-view barrier is curtailing the size of our game now and therefore reducing the game’s future commercial potential," he said.
"Scotland is in a minority, disenfranchised football group in Europe and we’re hurting families and kids who are facing enough financial pressure. Fans overwhelmingly don’t like what the SFA are doing because the result is the costs see many of our kids excluded. That is plain wrong.
"My biggest fear is instead building on the good work of Steve Clarke and his team, and looking forward with confidence we are managing a self-induced long-term decline. Every fan should sign this petition to get this discussed and swept into the deepest bin we can find."