Monday, August 2, 2010

For the last few seasons the Scottish Football League have lagged behind many other leagues in the UK, Europe and across the world when it comes to showcasing their product to a global online audience.

The clubs themselves in the bottom three Scottish Leagues have had to lead the way, with many of them doing excellent jobs on their own tv channels on their websites.

Whereas you could watch round ups of games in things like the Unibond League, if you wanted to find Scottish lower league highlights online, you had to scavenge around. There was no one stop shop and not all clubs were on board.

East Fife had been slow to join the party, primarily due to the incapabilities of their official website, but they got their highlights packages underway last season and this year, under the excellent stewardship of Graeme MacKay they are producing some good highlights for fans the world over. Great stuff.

Even better news though is the launch of SFL TV this season, with the Scottish Football League finally joining the 21st century and having highlights packages of all three of their competitions, along with a "Classic" TV channel of some previous League Cup Finals.

I don't know how long the SFL having been using the tagline "Home of REAL Football" but I love it! We've known that's the truth in Scotland for years now and they can finally showcase this fact to a wider audience. After all, everyone knows that the better football in England is to be found in the Championship and not the Premiership. People should know it's the same in Scotland.

SFL TV kicked off last week with a fantastic 21 minute highlights reel of the First Round Alba Challenge Cup matches.

East Fife's 4-3 extra time victory over Brechin City was conspicuous by it's absence, but fear not, this was just due to a mix up over the format the highlights had to be in and future Fife games will be appearing, sadly starting with last Saturday humiliation at Starks Park in the League Cup. You can still see these highlights HERE on the East Fife site itself though.

The SFL highlights packages won't be up until Thursday/Friday each week, as the individual clubs will hold their rights to the footage until the Thursday after the game, so the first place to look for all the action is the official website of each club.

The other good news for this season is that the SFL have allowed to clubs to show 5 minutes of footage on their sites, up from the three minutes of previous seasons. Any clubs wanting to show more than 5 minutes of highlights have to pay the SFL a fee to do so, which just seems plain crazy to me.

Another thing that seems nuts is that the SFL would charge clubs a fee if they want to make up a compilation dvd at the end of the season. This fee could be over £1000. East Fife Supporters Trust director Eugene Clarke has taken this matter up with David Longmuir of the SFL and we await developments with this regard.

So all positive developments, especially for an exile like myself. I would like to see SFL TV develop even further though over the next few seasons.

Having been following the USL/NASL in North America in recent seasons, the online coverage they give their fans is fantastic. You can watch every game in USSF D2 live or on demand, as well as a highlights package.

Well, fantastic in theory, the delivery has been shoddy at times to say the least, with streams you can't watch for size, sound or buffering reasons. Still, it's free, so you can't complain too much. We do though!

I would love a time when you can watch the SFL game of your choice live online. For a fee obviously, with the Clubs benefitting from any lost revenue. The difference of course between watching games in North America and Scotland is that in the former, it's a bugger to get to ANY away games depending on where your team plays, so this makes a lot more sense.

Even if the game were available in full 24 hours later, that would be great and if they're worried about attendance issues, they could block UK IPs and just have it for those overseas! A pipe dream obviously, but still...

Baby steps though. The SFL should be congratulated for this move. SFL TV is going to be a fantastic showcase for member clubs. I'm looking forward to the season ahead. let's just hope East Fife have more highlights than lowlights in there.

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