Fans Before TV: In Scotland, Fans Demand The Obvious

Last week we posted a photo of a protest by Aberdeen fans in Scotland regarding the lack of consideration shown to fans who show up in the flesh at games: Fans Before TV – 12.45 Isn’t On, their banner stated, referring to the early 12.45pm kickoff for the Dons’ Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic on April 17th. Here’s a reminder:

Fans Before TV - Aberdeen's Red Ultras Protest

What we didn’t know until Scotzine pointed it out in the comments was that fans of Aberdeen’s opponents that day, Celtic, made exactly the same point with a banner of their own that read “It’s time to put fans before TV”.

It’s not exactly a new story that television has become the dominant force in scheduling games. The days of uniform Saturday 3pm kickoffs are, of course, numbered in Britain, and have been for some time.

Still, the growing disaffection with the last-minute schedule changes and difficulties on group travel that result from fan unfriendly kickoff times is certainly spreading. For once, Rangers fans agree with their Old Firm rivals, this month also holding up a “Fans Before TV” banner.

Moreover, as you can tell from the photo, that Aberdeen-Celtic semi-final was not exactly a packed house, with Scotzine noting “The stadium was far from full with around 20,000 seats left empty, a sizeable chunk in the Aberdeen end.”

In part, this seems to be because the 12.45pm kick-off time did not take into account train timetables: the earliest train to arrive from Aberdeen that day was at 12.20pm, giving fans barely enough time to scoot over to the stadium in time for kickoff.

It was also the second protest in a month for Celtic fans, who expressed their disapproval at a 6pm kickoff on a TUESDAY by tossing a dozen extra footballs onto the pitch right at kickoff for their April 12th game against Motherwell.

There will be many who will say: who cares. Television pays their money and makes their choice. But it could also be one factor contributing to a drastic fall in attendances across the Scottish Premier League this season.  Aberdeen’s crowds are down about 10% to 9,769 per game, leaving just four Scottish Premier League teams averaging above 10,000 for the season. League-wide, the average attendance is 13,783 for 2010-11, dipping from last season’s 13,915 and even worse, down from 15,537 in 2008-09.

Again, kick-off times are only one element of many challenges facing Scottish teams that aren’t named Rangers or Celtic. That said, what had once been a habit going back generations – going to games set on a predictable schedule – is now becoming a chore just to keep track of for fans.

8 thoughts on “Fans Before TV: In Scotland, Fans Demand The Obvious

  1. Joe

    Quite a shock to learn that Celtic fans did not receive a mention here isn’t it?
    The one mention that Celtic fans do get in the Scottish creeps media is when a green flare went off in that game, It must have been extremely strong too!! It seemingly clouded out the red one from the other end to the point where no-one saw it! We should know better. Rangers fans sing sectarian songs, are being investigated by an authority higher (thankfully) than the SFA, send death threats, bullets and bombs, but Celtic fans only do bad things! They even cheered their manager last week against Killie!! Disgusting!!

  2. Alan Chambers

    Joe, did you read the article, the Celtic support and their backing of the campaign get mentioned twice.

  3. David Toms

    Tom this is a great article, and incidentally I was just re-reading an old post on From A Left Wing (http://fromaleftwing.blogspot.com/2008/02/tree-falls-in-forest-watching-womens.html) about the perception that women’s football is boring because no one is usually in the grounds to talk about the game afterwards.

    It and your article here have gotten me thinking that there are many parallels between these problems facing the game in Scotland, in the US amongst women, and in the League of Ireland in the Republic. It has only recently been that the Irish state-run tv station RTÉ has begun to show significantly more live soccer on Friday nights, however many people are turning off because the atmosphere is lacking, since not many attend.

    The FAI seems to believe that having it on tv will make it more popular, not understanding the popularity of soccer on tv comes largely from the atmosphere created by fans who bothered to show up. This is something the Aberdeen fans clearly understand. The first thing you say now when watching a match with a low attendance is “there’s not many at that game, is there?” and creates a sort of false logic that “oh well if people near there can’t be bothered to turn up, it mustn’t be a big tie, I’m turning that off”, which could of course be completely untrue.

    Of course, it would be daft for this to be an either-or situation, as Sean Rubio explains here: http://www.runofplay.com/2011/02/17/television-and-the-form-of-the-soccer-match/
    but certainly it is clear that television is king and just another example of how increasingly ignored the fans of the game have become not only to the organisers, but to the clubs too it seems.

  4. Bruce The Dog Walker

    This is very topical in my own country at the moment, as channel seven and foxtel (paid tv) just got the rights to aussie rules football for $1.2 B. While Australia as 22 million people. The footy code is biggest in the southern states of VIC, SA and WA.

    We too have seen football change from Saturday afternoon to Friday nights through to Sunday nights, to appease the TV stations. The point is, that the previous TV deal that the AFL got was only $700 million I think. What we are finding is that players are chasing massive incomes each year, and because teams want to keep on top of the ladder, they are paying these fees. This means that either some clubs are going bankrupt or game ticket prices are rising to ridiculous levels.

    Here In Australia, I know fees and ticket prices are probably much less than in the UK, but the fans too are getting left behind as greed takes over what used to be a fun sport. It should really be up to the administrators to work out that this is killing the game, but until their own income drops, i doubt that they will see it.

  5. Alex

    This seems to be a common problem across the global football community.

    Way too many football clubs are looking to cash in on television companies without any regard for their fans, a decision that will ultimately drive fans to stay away from travelling to the games.

  6. Dave

    The same thing is happening here in Australia with the AFL, it appears TV rules the roost, the fans come second. Sure people may want to watch their team live on TV but where does that leave the ones that want to go to the game, as well as the clubs involved who end up getting less people attending. To me, money is the over riding factor in all of this with the football associations bowing to the TV bosses at the expense of the average fan.