Should we be showing ALL games live?


One thing that quickly came apparent after researching and publishing the ‘Scottish Football TV Myth‘ article last Friday was that in comparison to other European countries of a similar size, we show far fewer games on TV.  Infact, the only real negative comment the article got was that it was not a fair comparison as it didn’t take into account the fact that Norway, Austria and Switzerland show over 200 live games a season, compared to the 60 SPL matches shown live.

Fair comment I thought.  And like everyone who mentioned this said, you can’t have all the games live, as no one would go to the games.  So sure was I of this, I even commented as such on twitter:

St Johnstone 1884@stjohnstone1884

@stevensanPH The only way 200 games could be shown in Scotland is through an SPL TV channel. Would showing every match be good for game?

@stjohnstone1884 no. It would be a disaster. But my point is 3m for spl TV rights is an insult.

So, having finished an article for the Herald on the TV subject (looking at TV money against viewing figures, as opposed to attendances – you can read it this Wednesday in the Herald!) I decided to prove that showing games live would kill the game as I thought.

The problem is… I can’t find ANY stat to back this up.  Infact, everything I find tends to suggest the opposite!  Now, I get that this will have a skeptical reaction, and I would love if someone can show me data to prove this is wrong, but bear with me as we go through the stats.  You know I love stats.

I start off in Austria, where SKY Austria have rights to all Austrian games, something that started circa 2010 from what I can gather.  I went back and researched average attendances for clubs in Austria from the early 2000’s against their attendances last season.  I was shocked to see that they had actually increased.  Surely, if TV was a bad thing it should have decreased?

I then went and looked at the Swiss league (all games LIVE on TV) and the Norwegian league.  Once again, despite all games being live, attendances across the board have increased in the last 10 years.

Austria   1992 2012 % increase
Rapid Vienna 5001 16200 324%
Austria Vienna 6000 8653 144%
Redbull Salzburg 10529 9850 94%
Admira Wacker 2854 4848 170%
Switzerland 2003 2012
Basel 29989 29775 99%
Zurich 7597 10512 138%
St.Gallen 9620 10711 111%
Norway 2004 2012
Molde 6508 9286 143%
Rosenborg 13791 14246 103%
Odd Greenland 6458 5208 81%
Valengra Oslo 8951 11210 125%

As you can see above, this select amount of clubs have more or less all shown increases.  I am discounting the economy being the factor here, as I think we would all agree the current economic outlook across Europe is about as bad as it has ever been.  Maybe it is to do with comparative success of the clubs from one era to the next.  Being lazy I couldn’t be bothered to check league positions against average attendances (however, I don’t believe a team like Saints shows any difference on this at all).

However, I did then stumble upon this, for ALL clubs in the Scandinavian top flights.  The data is for the 2005 – 2008 seasons and shows average attendances across the 3 years.  From what I can see, and from this excellent report into Norwegian football and TV deals, Norway started airing all matches live in the 2006 season.

Club 2005 2006 2007 % diff.
FC Copenhagen 21550 23790 19455 -10%
Rosenborg BK 19480 19905 18955 -3%
SK Brann 16690 17225 16955 2%
Brondby IF 16135 13945 16070 0%
AIK 21435 20465 15535 -28%
Viking FK 13915 15845 15380 11%
Valerenga 13870 13835 12700 -8%
Fredrikstad FK 8100 11800 11525 42%
Malmo FF 13665 13365 11195 -18%
Hammarby IF 11795 13505 11145 -6%
Helsinborgs IF 12410 12000 10495 -15%
Alesunds FK 9945 10420 10365 4%
Djugardens IF 13360 14150 10170 -24%
Aarhus GF 7325 8810 9825 34%
IFK Gothenburg 10280 15800 9630 -6%
IF Elfsborg 12175 11865 9514 -22%
Odense Boldklub 8195 7895 9010 10%
Aalborg BK 6825 8610 8945 31%
FC Midtjylland 7195 8715 8925 24%
Lillestrom SK 8615 9015 8790 2%
Orebro SK 5360 8820 8660 62%
Molde FK 6125 6340 8205 34%
Start Kristiansand 7675 11215 7490 -2%
Esbjerg FB 6900 6835 6800 -1%
IFK Norrkoping 4645 7375 6650 43%
SKF Lyn 7060 7665 6645 -6%
Randers FC 4030 6525 6620 64%
Kalmar FF 5200 6220 6105 17%
Halmstadt BK 6000 7360 6035 1%
Stromsgodset 4075 6805 5915 45%
Stabaek IF 5055 5570 5835 15%
Bodo / Glimt SFK 3235 3710 5505 70%
Tromso IL 5070 6055 5480 8%
GAIS 7075 6885 5225 -26%
Odd-Grenland 4915 5335 5165 5%
Hamarkameratene Toppfotball 5505 3345 5125 -7%
Vejle Boldklub 2560 4480 4650 82%
GIF Sundsvall 2955 3825 4595 55%
HJK Helsinki 5570 4850 4515 -19%
TPS Turku 3570 5295 4500 26%
Tippeligaen (average) 9100 9100 9810 8%
SAS (average) 7955 8105 8475 7%
Allsvenskan (average) 9420 10260 7790 -17%
Veikkausliiga (average) 2910 2975 2635 -9%
Overall 386930 427916 395021 2%

As you can see, there has been an overall 2% increase in attendances across the 3 years.  The 3 years which coincided with total live football coverage on Scandinavian TV.  The graph below was taken from an article looking into increases in Finland domestic match attendances between 2006 and 2009 – the conclusion was it was to do with the way tickets are now sold (that’s for another article!):

What I found fascinating here is that if you look at the orange line for Norway, and the green line for Denmark, they have shown steady improvements in attendances from 1992 onwards.  However, around the time that the TV deals kick in, they have a year where attendances drop.  However, look what happens in TV deal year +2… they start again to increase at a similar rate.

Ok, so all the data above is suggesting showing all matches live has no real effect on attendances.  Is this another myth we have been told?  Or am I missing something?

Lets just assume for a minute, that if every game was live, we would be able to attract a 40m tv deal that I talked about last week.   That would give us around 2.5 times more revenue than we currently get for TV (or 12 times more if Doncaster has his sums right!).  What would that mean in real terms?

Well, lets take Saints for example – I will let others figure it out for their teams – this is a Saints site after all.  Last season we got approximately 1.35 million from the SPL pot, thanks to finishing 6th. Now, if our deal increased by 2.5 times, that would theoretically increase our TV revenue to 3.375 million.

I’m going to put this in perspective… last season our turnover was just over 4.0 million.  So, based on this, and a 3.375 million tv revenue, how many fans would we need to attract to keep a similar turnover?  Not many is the answer.

Is this the right way to go?  All games on TV?  Just maybe, it is what we have to do to move with the times.  After all, the English and Spanish leagues are rammed down our throats, taking Scottish fans and turning them into Barcelona and Real Madrid fans.  Maybe its time to ram St.Johnstone games down their throats and turn the Scottish game back into the one everyone is talking about!

One thing is for sure – we have to change.  No more pandering to the Old Firm.  Scottish football needs to take a ballsy step forward and change, otherwise we are dead.

This Friday the 13th is going to make, or break Scottish Football.  Let’s make sure it MAKES it.

Is this the future for Scottish Football…? Is it a good future?

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