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Should all of Scotland’s men’s and women’s major international football matches be screened on free-to-air channels? Scottish Government consultation offers hope that all fans can watch in future

By Craig Christie

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Scotland’s major international football matches could be screened on free-to-air TV channels in the future.

Scotland’s qualifiers are on pay-pwer-view channels. Will that change in the future? Picture: Ken Macpherson.
Scotland’s qualifiers are on pay-pwer-view channels. Will that change in the future? Picture: Ken Macpherson.

An evaluation will make the case for all of this country’s men’s and women’s internationals, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, being broadcast on mainstream channels such as BBC, STV or Channel 4.

Scotland’s qualifiers for this summer’s Euros were broadcast on the Viaplay channel, where viewers need to pay a subscription.

England’s group matches were all screened for free on Channel, while Wales’ matches were streamed both to the Welsh S4C free-to-air channel and BBC iplayer.

All matches in the World Cup and European Championships finals are part of a protected list, meaning Scotland and England’s matches in Germany for this summer’s Euros will be on BBC or STV and free to watch.

The Scottish Government is beginning a consultation, looking in to the possibility of putting Scotland’s future qualifiers on the same protected list instead of asking fans to pay extra to watch their country in action.

“This consultation will examine the case to close that loophole,” said a Scottish Government spokesperson.

“UEFA holds the rights to these matches and they are often sold to the highest bidder – regardless of whether that results in them being shown behind a paywall.

“Any consultation would form part of broader analysis of the case for the expansion of the list of free-to-air games, alongside a consideration of the business case. The Scottish Government plans to publish further details on the consultation this summer.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf said step will be taken towards making major Scotland international football matches available free-to-air, allowing the whole country to get behind our national teams in important qualifying fixtures.

“Scots celebrated as our men’s national team charged their way on scintillating form into this year’s Euro Championships, and we’ll all be behind the women’s national team when their qualifiers get underway next month, but most Scots are blocked from watching the national team with the bulk of games shown on a pay-per-view basis.

"With so much at stake in qualifiers, our vision is for all fans to be able to watch their national teams as they battle to reach the world’s biggest competitions.

“With the full powers of independence, the Scottish Government would have the power to determine the list of events that should be available to broadcast free-to-air to reflect the interests of Scottish audiences, and enable broadcasters who have a public service remit to better meet these needs.

“But broadcasting policy is currently reserved to the UK Government, and only Westminster can add these matches being included in the so-called “crown jewels” of international sporting fixtures for free-to-air broadcast.

“With the UK Government refusing to act to resolve the situation for Scotland fans, the Scottish Government will launch a consultation on the issue to help progress the campaign to ensure Scotland international qualifying matches are on terrestrial TV.

“Further evaluation work will be taken forward to understand the implications such a decision would have for rights holders, including the SFA, before the Scottish Government’s case is brought forward to the UK Government.”

Broadcasting policy is reserved to the UK Government, and an evaluation of the balance between the ability of Scottish rights holders, such as the Scottish FA, to generate income to reinvest in Scottish sports, and access for Scottish audiences to sporting events is being explored.

Major sporting events are broken down into two categories - full live coverage protected and secondary coverage protected.

The first category includes events broadcast live on free-to-air channels in the UK. These include football’s World Cup and European Championships, the Scottish and English FA Cup finals, the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, the tennis championships at Wimbledon and the Grand National and Derby horse races.

Secondary coverage protected events can appear live on pay-per-view channels with highlights shown on free-to-air platforms. The Open golf championships and Ryder Cup are included in this category.

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