Andrew D Duffy
Islands Without A Stream
Refunds Are All Well And Good, But Why are The SFA Not Letting Scotland Fans Stream The Play-Off Semi-Final?
'With restrictions on crowds at football matches in Scotland continuing, we can now confirm that a capacity crowd cannot attend our UEFA EURO 2020 Play-Off against Israel at Hampden Park. The process of issuing refunds to all ticket buyers will therefore take place from today, Wednesday 23 September.'
So read the email from the SFA. There's absolutely nothing they could have done about the spike in the Covid infections that kiboshed any prospect of getting fans in the door. They have by all accounts processed the refunds quickly and efficiently, the extension to membership is right and proper and I hope the take-up for the donation scheme, in aid of a grass roots fund, is healthy.
However, we are talking about people who bought tickets to attend the match. We are talking, in large part, about people who have paid an annual fee to become or remain members of the Supporters Club. At club level, Season ticket holders are able to stream live home games even if they are being screened by Sky Sports. Why, then, is this not an option for this game?
Not every supporter has Sky Sports. Pubs will be unable to screen the entire game should it go to penalties, which it very well could do. We fans who bought tickets were not part of the prospective Sky Sports audience under normal circumstances, since we were going to be in the ground. The only reason, then, that fans with tickets who don't shell out for Sky won't be seeing the whole game is because of the Covid pandemic and, to a lesser extent, Governmental regulations.
Sky had no reasonable argument to counter this proposal, were the SFA to make it. A deal with the broadcaster has already been struck to permit streaming of Sky games to season ticket holders of our domestic top flight clubs. Supporters Club members who bought their tickets in good faith deserve no less than a free stream of the Semi-Final they have been waiting for since November 2018.
You'll find an awful lot of illegal streaming of the game, now. You'll find people eschewing household mixing regulations and watching it in groups. You'll find pubs struggling to meet demand under reduced capacity and facing potential serious incidents of verbal abuse for trying to force folk out whilst extra time rages on, should that be how the game goes.
Sky Sports have a less than stellar track record of covering Scottish Football. The National Team have to actually qualify for a tournament to get themselves screened on 'Cooncil telly', unless they happen to play England in a qualifier on friendly. You would have hoped the SFA could have gone to bat on this for their long suffering but relentlessly loyal support.
Maybe they are so weak that Sky turned them down point blank when they did broach the subject. This would be bad enough, if the SFA was sent packing with its tail between its legs. It's hard not to think, though, that the reality is even worse. To quote The West Wing character Toby Ziegler, 'I bet all the money in my pockets, against all the money in your pockets', that the SFA never even asked. They didn't let us down by losing the fight; they let us down by failing to even pick one.