Sunday, 13 May 2012

Carling think Scottish football fans will watch anything

I'm not about to suggest that Scottish Football represents to pinnace of sporting excellence, for from it. However, I have after many years of automatically dismissing the game north of the border with typical English arrogance, taken the time to actually watch some matches from the SPL. While I find the narrative of the Old Firm to be tedious, there is no doubt that this season's Celtic side has much to offer. If this predominantly young squad can stick together then they will be sure to win many titles, especially now that Rangers are in such parlous financial straights it may take them forever to recover.

There is value further down the league with both Dundee United and Motherwell playing an attractive brand of football. The latter have a shot at Champions league football thanks to Rangers not being eligible for UEFA competition.

While it is fair to say that the quality in the Scottish game struggles to match that of the Premier League and other senior European leagues there are plans afoot to develop young players in Scotland and produce a generation of exciting talent to entertain the public in the SPL and for the national team. The SFA  recently appointed  Mark Wotte as Performance Director to oversee this. Also, I can say that most of the games I've seen have been reasonably entertaining from a neutral standpoint with the standard being very for from poor.

A pity then that some of the SPL's commercial partners seem to adopt a decidedly patronising tone when presenting the Scottish game. UK lager vendors Carling have sponsored the domestic satellite TV coverage on Sky and ESPN for at least a couple years and their sponsorship bumpers are not exactly complimentary. The theme revolves around the 'passion' of the Scottish football fan who are so 'passionate' about their football that they will watch anything from sheepdogs to balls floating in a lake and people sat in a bus shelter.

While these bumpers are intend to be watched with tongue firmly placed in cheek, it does suggest the scale of the task that Scottish football in general faces in trying to persuade people that their league is not as bad as it is perceived. When I see those bumpers I think the message they send (apart from buy Carling) is: Scottish football fans are so passionate that they will watch anything, even Scottish football. This approach by Carling must work for them because if it wasn't they would have taken a different approach, presumably.

The overall narrative of Scottish football on Sky and ESPN is that of 'passion' particularly from the fans. Their promos and opening credits feature fans, demonstrating their 'passion' and tend to use less imagery involving the actual players actually playing actual football. The inference is clear: the football's not that good but look at what it means to the fans?

Football in Scotland doesn't need commercial partners to convey these values. While it would be foolish to over hype the SPL it is counter productive to portray as a league that is watched by people who will watch any old rubbish. Scottish football deserves more than that and if the league improves it needs its sponsors and broadcasting to be across this. By all means sell the passion but sell the progress too.