THE start of the new season is traditionally a time of great excitement, and while so much is different this time around, the sense of anticipation remains the one constant.

The prospect of wrestling with the login process of your club’s website to view a stream of a game in an empty stadium from your living room doesn’t quite hold the same allure as the sights, sounds and smells of the traditional opening day - the new strips, the perfect pitch, the freshly painted stands, the greasy pie – but after four months without Scottish football, it will certainly do for now.

The football, the SPFL will hope, will also provide a welcome distraction from their own travails over the lockdown period, allowing fans to once again focus their ire on the opposition rather than towards the league’s governing body.

Neil Doncaster will hope that the return of competitive games will lessen the scrutiny on the way the SPFL have handled the coronavirus crisis in a way the verdict from the arbitration panel did not, though supporters of Hearts and Partick Thistle are unlikely to quickly move on. Particularly when Doncaster declared himself ‘absolutely delighted’ with an outcome that relegated two of the SPFL’s member clubs, perhaps his worst choice of words since rebranding the Scottish leagues as the Premiership, Championship and Leagues One and Two.

The bad news for the embattled chief executive is that it seems the great Scottish football public are now turning their attention on how the SPFL is continuing to promote the game here. Or not, as the case may be.

As was detailed rather succinctly – if depressingly – on Twitter yesterday by user Alex Marr, the country’s flagship league competition is minus a main sponsor, and has made a pig’s ear of exploiting potential foreign markets by failing to secure a broadcast deal in territories like South America – where Alfredo Morelos has piqued interest in our game - or places like the USA and Canada where a large proportion of ex-pat Scots live. The league has no individual social media account, contributing to a situation where brand awareness is so low that even footballers regularly competing in the division refer to it as the ‘SPL’, never mind those from further afield.

Another major misstep, and missed opportunity given the current climate, was the decision not to centralise the streaming of matches. Not only are we therefore left in a situation where there is huge disparity between what individual clubs are charging for the privilege to view their games, with Motherwell at the lower end charging £12 and Livingston at the ridiculously steep end charging £20 per match, but supporters now have to register and purchase those games with each individual club if they want to watch away games. To paraphrase fellow newsman Kent Brockman of The Simpsons, when will the SPFL learn that when it comes to our clubs and effective decision-making, democracy simply doesn’t work.

Even worse than the price disparity is the discrepancies in terms of access, with Hibernian, for example, not having their own PPV service available yet. That means the Kilmarnock supporters who have waited for four agonising months to see their team in action have no way to watch their club’s first Premiership match of the season when they visit Easter Road on Saturday. It is still unclear whether some other clubs will offer the service for away fans at all, as it is not mandatory. Ridiculous.

It really didn’t have to be this difficult. 11 of the 12 clubs are using the same system, Stream Digital, to deliver the matches. Only Rangers are using a different platform.

Any naïve notion that the lockdown period and the resultant financial hardships faced by our clubs as they couldn’t get fans – their lifeblood – through the door would lead to the supporter being placed front and centre of the decision-making process has well and truly been shelved.

I am loathe to compare any facet of the Scottish game with our neighbours to the south, which is a futile practice on the whole, but what was to stop the SPFL aping the model adopted by the English Football League, named iFollow.

The service offers enhanced four-camera coverage of every match from the Championship, League One and League Two for fans that can’t attend, and all for the princely sum of a tenner per match, right across the board.

Instead, in Scotland, fans will pay almost the same price to watch from home in some cases than they would at the turnstile, and if they are scheduled to play at Hibs, they might not see the game at all.

The importance of fans to Scottish clubs in terms of their balance sheets has always been disproportionate compared to other leagues around Europe, but while every club is currently desperate to get those fans back into stadiums to sustain them, they don’t seem prepared in a lot of cases to prioritise them in their thinking.

And when taking all of the above into account, it may well be time to ask that if our governing bodies are failing to take themselves, and therefore Scottish football seriously, then why should anyone else?