Cooney and Black

Monday-night SPL football in Dingwall – is this a collective death wish? The game is damned if it doesn’t bow to television’s demands – and damned if it does!

Global Energy stadium


DOES football and those charged with scheduling TV matches have a collective death wish – a desire to head over the cliff hand-in-hand like love-struck lemmings?

You have to wonder, not least when you consult the fixtures and discover that Ross County versus Aberdeen has been switched from a Saturday afternoon to a November Monday evening in Dingwall.

Now I know there probably isn’t a lot to do on a Monday evening in Dingwall: population approximately 6,000.

In fact, there probably isn’t a lot to do anywhere on the first evening of the working week, apart from going to the pub.

But nobody is going to convince me that the national grid will be threatened by millions of TVs being switched on at 7.45 as the nation tunes into BT’s coverage of events at the Global Energy Stadium.

No disrespect intended to either of the protagonists, but Ross County and Aberdeen have only limited appeal outside the Highlands and the north-east of the country.

That said, what effect will live coverage on the box on a Monday evening have on the attendance? Sizeable, I would suggest.

You think not? Take a look at last week’s turn-out for the Rangers-St Johnstone League Cup quarter-final at Ibrox. Fewer than 14,000 turned out as BBC Scotland broadcast to the nation. I rest my case.

Jim McIntyre, the Ross County manager, observed during an interview that while much is made of Friday and Monday evening football, TV puts a lot of money into the game and, as professionals, players have just got to deal with that.

He is correct, of course. It’s the piper who calls the tune and television is indeed entitled to dictate to a large extent, for without TV revenue the lid would already have been screwed down on the game as we know it.

But at what cost to the fans, those who remain the life blood of our national sport? Does football and the administrators on the periphery of the game ever pay any more than lip service to the average supporter?

I won’t bother answering that, other than to say the game often does not deserve the loyalty of those who pay over-inflated prices for an often under-inflated product.

Take the Aberdeen fans, for example. The journey time from the Granite City to Dingwall during rush hour is a minimum of three hours at best through a series of towns and villages for the most part of approximately 120 miles.

So, the average Dons fan will be required to depart no later than 4.30p.m. simply to make the kick-off, traffic hold-ups notwithstanding, before facing a long return journey ending in the early hours of the following morning.

Would it not be more convenient for the average supporter to schedule the majority TV matches involving a journey for travelling fans of more 90 minutes on weekends?

Also, given a choice of Monday evening or Sunday afternoon, I’ll confidently wager that the Red Army would much prefer the latter.

The problem with that suggestion is that the English Premiership takes precedence and nothing and no-one is allowed to encroach on the product that is perceived to be football’s Holy Grail.

Yet, take Sky out of the equation and the rest of the broadcasting fraternity are left with the scraps.

Football, meanwhile, sold its soul to television a long time ago and is now faced with a classic Catch 22 situation.

The game is damned if it doesn’t bow to television’s demands – and damned if it does!




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