Do you remember the early days of Sky Sports? They raised the bar for football coverage on television, which had been limited in the scope of cameras deployed, production skills and incident analysis. When Sky arrived, the number of cameras at a game went from two to 12. Time was dedicated to the pre-match build-up and you were learning things about the game from analysts, who knew more than you.
We liked Sky, they put money into our game and gave us a more enjoyable viewing experience. There was what media people call brand affinity with the broadcaster. Let’s remember where we were before that time. As recently as 1995, Charlie Nicholas co-commentated for 15 minutes telling us the score was Rangers 1-1 Celtic, when the Rangers goal had been disallowed for offside. An entire match production team at Ibrox didn’t know the score.
While Sky continued to improve the quality of their premium output, their efforts at delivering Scottish football content has dropped off a cliff. Even those who work with the broadcaster tell me they are not interested in our game, an insight that scarcely needs to be stated.
Yesterday’s announcement by Sky that they secured rights to the SPFL for five seasons, pushing out BT Sport in the process, was Ratner-esque in the delivery of a business message. The graphic featured Brendan Rodgers, a Celtic crest, Steven Gerrard and a Newco crest. The message was clear: there are only two teams in this league we care about. Even I was offended, despite my team featuring. Consider where brand affinity is now.
We will all miss BT Sport, especially big Chris, but I’m not sharing the love with them. Their production standards were excellent, but if they were not prepared to pay for the product, they cannot retain the rights. The League only has discretion on these matters if the difference in bids is marginal, which it was not on this occasion.
So we are left with Sky, who still employ Charlie Nicholas, and who has never been short of a word (unless asked to contribute to a cause by Celtic), but has never provided insight into anything. Ever. And there’s Andy Walker, who sent viewers off air telling them Celtic still had work to do to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite the whole of Europe knowing they secured just that. People who do not know the score of a game they are commentating on, and do not know why 60,000 people are celebrating a result! This is their business, and they know less about it than you.
I hope the money Sky have put in means they will take us more seriously but I remain to be convinced. Stay tuned for five long years of mindless stating of the obvious, or ill-informed speculation about schisms masquerading as value-added insight. Is it any wonder the new media find such a fertile audience? Andy Gray must be spinning in his misogynist-bordello-themed 7am pub.