How Scottish football would love a slice of Apple's pie

Apple TV announced a deal last week with Major League Soccer that presented football fans the world over with a glimpse of what the future might look like: every game, every club on one platform. Of course, anyone who has ever watched a game on a dodgy stream will tell you that it is a service that has existed for quite some time, albeit in an imperfect – some might say illegal – form.

It's tempting to speculate on what a similar arrangement such as that which MLS has just announced might look like for Scottish football.

First there's the nuts and bolts of pre-existing deals. The current arrangement with Sky Sports runs until 2025, meanwhile, CBS acquired the rights to broadcast 85 matches per season across the SPFL's four divisions until the end of the 2024/25 season. And that's before we get into the Premier Sports Cup or Scotland matches.

On July 29 last year, Dan Weinberg, the executive vice president of programming at CBS Sports, said: “The SPFL is an elite soccer league and a key addition in our growing portfolio of global soccer rights, and we are excited to capitalise on our digital and cable platforms to bring these matches to fans across Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network.”

The exact figure of what that rights deal amounted to was predictably absent from most of the accompanying media releases and where the SPFL's concerned that's usually shorthand for a deal that's well below market rate.

For the average punter who follows a European-qualified Premiership team and the Scotland national team and who wants to watch every match, the outlay per month is around £60 with subscription services Sky Sports, BT Sport, Premier Sports and Viaplay (from 2024) all vying for a piece of the broadcast pie across various competitions. The fact that there are so many should tell us something: the product is not as undesirable as it is often represented with more and more broadcasters engaged in an arms race to add as many leagues or competitions to their stable as they can manage.

But the Apple TV deal also tells us there is another way. The arrival of Paramount+ on the Sky platform this week demonstrates how readily available the technology would be for the company to do something similar in football while the pandemic demonstrated that clubs had the wherewithal to provide their own offering, albeit these in-house services were not without their teething troubles. A similar arrangement with Apple TV seems a million miles away for Scottish football – the 28 (soon to be 29 clubs) will share $250m between them per season for the next 10 seasons, a figure that makes a mockery of the £32m our top clubs share annually between them. Is it really eight times more desirable a product than Scottish football?


VAR getting better

VAR will be upon us when the Scottish Premiership season returns, even if Bobby Madden, perhaps the single biggest reason for implementing it – will no longer be present in the league.

Recent evidence suggests that Scottish football fans welcome the introduction of video technology with more than 80% of respondents in a recent poll conducted by a local paper claiming that they wanted SPFL clubs to vote in favour of VAR ahead of April's vote on the matter.

The main accusation against VAR is the impact it has on the flow of the game and the lack of communication about what is going on at any given time often leaving fans at the game in limbo.

For those in favour of its use, though, there is some heartening news by way of a study carried out by the OLBG website which discovered that the process appears to be getting slicker with significantly fewer interventions season on season. In total in England's Premier League last year 80 decisions were overturned which was down from 110 in 2020/21 and 120 in 2019/20.

The report concluded that: “This perhaps shows how the officials are getting more used to life with the tech, as it's clearly being used less to change the outcome in matches.”

New season, same as the old season

It feels as if the football season has literally just ended – and that might be something to do with the fact that there were still Nations League matches being played at the start of this week. As increasingly is the case in the football calendar there is barely time for a gulp of cold beer and a slice of pizza before the ice baths and glucose drinks are being rolled out by the barrel on to training pitches across Europe.

A host of Scottish clubs including Raith Rovers, Dunfermline Athletic and Stirling Albion restarted pre-season training last week, mere days after their 2021/22 campaigns came to an end while the SPFL fixture list was released on Friday. Meanwhile, the Champions League preliminary rounds begin tomorrow when La Fiorita (San Marino) face Inter Escalades (Andorra) and Levadia Tallin (Estonia) take on Vikingur Reykjavik (Iceland). Yes, they might sound as if they are teams from your mate's Fantasy League but they could be coming to a Scottish football ground near you. And sooner than you think.

Taking the car for a service

It's the summer season so naturally there's a lot of guff coming through the old email inbox from PRs pushing all kinds of nonsense that they imagine might be of interest. Well, on this occasion, they have a winner – not least because the well is barren. With Wimbledon on the horizon is there a more apposite topic to focus on than the high-performance cars owned by tennis players? Thought not.

If the thought process goes that a pet says plenty about its owner, then a person's choice of car seems to be equally revealing. As befits an anti-vax conspiracy theorist, Novak Djokovic has a Tesla. Novak Djokovic, all raw muscle and explosive power, owns – among others – a Ferrari 458 Italia, which is the fastest car in his collection, boasting a top speed of 203mph. Humble, down-to-earth Andy Murray? He admitted to feeling “a bit of a prat” when he bought a garish red Ferrari of his own before swapping it for an Aston Martin. But there's no doubt that Andy remembers where he came from. He still owns his original Volkswagen Polo saying: “I enjoy

driving it. It was my first car and I’m attached to it.”

Remember the name

The butchering of Justin Thomas's name as he teed off on Saturday at the US Open brought a wry smile from this observer. The world No.5 – current holder of the USPGA championship and one of golf's most recognisable faces – was far from amused when the first tee announcer referred to him as a 'big ol Thompson'.

The gaffe brought back fond memories of the sadly now-defunct Ireland's Saturday Night, the bible for sports fans in Northern Ireland which would hit the shelves sometime around 7pm on a Saturday. It was an incredible product of flash reporting, copy taking, editing, sub-editing and print production given that the turnaround time between matches finishing and punters picking up their copies meant that the ink was barely dry on the pages by the time you were leafing through them.

That made for some hilarious bloopers which back then seemed incomprehensible but – after 20 years in newspapers – are now all too understandable. A particularly memorable Chelsea match report once included the howlers Luca Bialli, Ruud Gullet and Sranck The Leodious (Franck Leboeuf).


The total number of first-team appearances Calvin Ramsay made for Aberdeen in all competitions prior to him joining Liverpool yesterday for £6.7m