For any number of reasons, a large swathe of the global TV audience has switched off the Scottish game. While a similar number of solutions to the problem are routinely discussed, might Celtic consider differentiating the view for TV viewers and, as such, might the answer lie not just in the back of the Parkhead nets, but above and beside them also?
World football has undergone a process of standardisation, or McDonaldisation, the last 30 years or so. Adopting the McDonalds standardised model was to help football clubs attract TV football fans from all over the world.
McDonalds standardized the Big Mac to appeal to the widest possible audience and reduced differentiation to render the McDonalds experience placeless so it is always the same, anywhere in the world.
Football clubs, including Celtic, followed McDonalds into the placeless realm by reducing differentiators so becoming more accessible to the widest possible global TV audience. Manchester United, in dropping “Football Club” from their badge, for example, even went so far as to distance themselves from the sport they play.
A key differentiator for Celtic’s TV audience with their narrow, camera-eye view of the pitch was the Celtic Park goal nets. Not the nets themselves, rather the hardware employed to suspend the nets. The on-field architecture.
Until recently each region of the football world employed different methods of suspending the goal nets. Though there were always local differentiators, South American nations suspended their nets with L-supports and full support stanchions or “A-frames,” were generally favoured in England and Scotland – but not at Celtic, who installed the triangular “elbows” or Continental D supports most popular in Central Europe, in 1972.
Celtic Park could once be instantly identified on TV by the Continental D’s suspending the goal nets. Indeed, as Rangers (1872-2012 IL) hung their goal nets via traditional A-frames you could show any Celtic fan a goal from the Glasgow derby in the 1970’s or 80’s and they would be able to instantly identify if the goal was scored at Parkhead or Ibrox by looking at the goal nets.
A key part of homogenising the Scottish game for the global TV audience was losing the different on-field architecture and homogenising the method for suspending the top-flights nets.
Free-hanging box nets are now everywhere and games watched on TV could be played anywhere. Losing Celtic’s instantly identifiable Continental D’s meant losing the only remaining on-field differentiator for those watching Celtic games on TV.
Following McDonalds Marketing 101 this loss of differentiation should have resulted in a growth in the global TV audience for the Scottish game.
If this was ever true for the top flight in Scottish football it could be safely said that any such growth has peaked.
It is not just the Scottish game affected by a loss of audience. Viewing figures for last season’s Champions League were down and – exceptional games such as Celtic v Manchester City apart – it is clear the TV audience is bored watching games where the only unpredictable element of the TV viewing experience left to catch the eye is the perimeter advertising (which may have been the point all along).
Now, as the Scottish top-flight struggles for market share and sponsorship in a saturated, homogenous TV market, is it time for Celtic to go it alone and tear up the 1980’s marketing playbook and revisit differentiation?
Is it time to review what made games at Parkhead unique and promote that individual identity anew with the global TV audience?
Could it be anything but positive for Celtic if the global TV audience saw the old goal nets and knew the game was being played at Celtic Park?
Written by Tony Caramella for CQN. Tony is author of the website The History of Goal Nets