Thursday, October 8, 2009

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, the blog this week is going to be pretty Vancouver Whitecaps centric, as the excitement rises for the first leg of their Championship final on Saturday. We thought we’d have a break from it for a day though and turn out attention back to Scotland for a sec, although still with an eye on North America.

The official East Fife website will be getting relaunched shortly and one of the exciting new features will be the video section. Match highlights and interview features have been long sought after for a while now by many fans, especially those who are exiles or can’t make it along to every match.

East Fife have been slower than some Clubs to jump on the highlights package bandwagon, but we certainly welcome their addition to the teams offering this service to their fans.

This season alone has been great for far flung fans and those just keen to see the action once again. Most of our away games have been filmed and video highlights shown on the official websites of Stenhousemuir, Peterhead and Stirling Albion. Add to that Raith Rovers capturing the CIS Cup tie at Bayview and there’s been no excuse for not keeping up to date with all that’s been going on, wherever you live in the world.

In general, the Scottish football authorities are so far behind other parts of the world when it comes to promoting their games online it’s quite depressing. Both the SPL and SFL have failed to embrace new technologies when it comes to promoting the game in Scotland and they could learn a lot from some of the newer leagues around the world.

The problems surrounding securing a new TV deal for SPL games are likely to be played out again in a few years time, with the Clubs feeling that the best deal hasn’t been achieved. The SFL’s deal to show some lower league games on BBC Alba was a welcome step forward, but there is so much more that could be done.

If you look over at North America, it’s not exactly what most people would think of as a footballing hotbed and the MLS and USL have many many faults (as we discussed in yesterday‘s blog), but one thing I will praise their bigwigs for is catering for their fans desire to be able to watch all their team‘s games, both home and away, live and on demand.

Both Leagues offer fans a season long online package that allows them to view the full live 90 minutes of every League game that doesn’t have nationwide TV coverage. The games are also available on demand, so fans can follow their team in action as and when they can/want. There are also highlights available and also US Open Cup games, from the very early stages onwards.

The USL version has been free this season and the MLS one available at a very reasonable cost, reducing as the season goes on. Both versions provide live coverage only in the US and it’s territories and in Canada, but on demand archive action is available worldwide.

Such a set-up is great for helping to sell and promote the game in a continent where it vies for so much media attention. With clubs being so far apart as well, it means that fans can follow all away games at home or in the bar, when they can’t make it along in person. The ability to feel close to your team by watching every game is a must to create the football culture so many desire to come into effect across the continent.

With so many ex-pat Scots around the world if the SPL and SFL set up a similar system they would be making a lot of fans happy both home and abroad, as well as selling the game in Scotland to a worldwide audience that it doesn’t have just now. I’d like them to go one step further though and open up the live action worldwide.

As it stands in Canada for example, they sell the live rights to show Old Firm SPL games first to Celtic and Rangers supporters clubs. They then charge people up to $20 a game to watch it live. Cost aside, spending the early hours of a weekend morning in the company of such people really doesn’t appeal. Setanta do show the odd non Old Firm featuring SPL game live, but only when there’s nothing else live to show from the EPL or Championship. The Celtic and Rangers games are aired in full on Setanta, but usually 48 or 72 hours after the event and at a time when most people wouldn’t be in to watch it in the first place.

Some of the actual action in the SPL this season has been first class and it’s just a shame that more people across the globe can’t see it unless it’s via unofficial downloads or streams. Given the choice of watching a choppy, poor quality illegal stream of a game, or a great quality official stream at a reasonable season lasting price, I know what I’d pick every time, although I appreciate I may be in the minority here!

There is nothing to stop the Scottish Football League though offering a USL Live style service. They have nothing to lose out on, as their games are not shown anywhere outside of Scotland.

The launch of “East Fife TV” is a great thing, but if we could get the whole league shown to everyone that wanted it, well that would just be a dream come true and rather than take away from attendances at games, I feel it would give attendances in the lower leagues a boost and help create more interest in people’s local clubs.

If a drop in attendances was a concern then all they need to do is blackout the live action in Scotland, but let it go out live worldwide. Full, on demand games and highlights could then be available in Scotland 24 hours after the event, like so many Clubs currently do on their own websites.

If many of the small leagues in the English pyramid system can do it, then why are we so far behind? Promotion and pride are two things severely lacking in our domestic game just now and surely anything that could help boost that is worth a try?


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