It’s only right that Scotland’s games are free-to-air

This summer we’ll all have the chance to watch Stevie Clarke’s men in action in the Euro 2024 finals in Germany – free to watch on BBC and STV.

But the qualifying campaign which took us there and brought the nation together in the highs – and thankfully few lows – of action, was behind a paywall, available only to subscribers.

That’s why I’m delighted the Scottish Government have begun consulting on how we can help make the men’s national team join their women’s counterparts on free-to-air television.

I’ve been lobbying and campaigning on this issue for the past few years and I’ve been clear throughout that it wouldn’t be a quick or easy win.

The revenue generated by commercial activities – including the sale of TV rights – makes up a healthy percentage of the footballing authorities income, income which then in part goes towards the grassroots game.

No-one wants to see that jeopardised – but I can’t believe it’s beyond the wit of all to come up with a solution that protects those revenues while ensuring free access across the board.

Other countries ensure that their national team games are freely available because they understand there’s a wider cultural and social responsibility in everyone being able to see their country in action, regardless of financial position.

For the UK Government, this simply hasn’t been an issue because England games have been shown on free TV for years.

Their current Channel 4 deal sits in between contracts with ITV that have spanned over 15 years. The vast revenues filling the English FA’s coffers mean they can afford to be choosy and guarantee eyeballs on screens to help keep their national teams’ profiles high.

My repeated attempts to get this on the radar of UK ministers have been rebuffed with the message, “sport is a devolved matter”, completely ignoring the fact broadcasting is very much controlled by Westminster.

I put forward amendments to their Media Bill that would place Scotland men’s and women’s team matches – and other UK nations for that matter – on the list of sporting events that must be offered to free to air broadcasters.

Those amendments were voted down by a UK Tory government we didn’t vote for and who have shown nothing but disinterest and contempt whenever the subject has been brought up.

So thank goodness we have a Scottish Government who are prepared to put time and effort into something which could benefit every football fan in the country.

There are many options for how to make it happen – S4C, for example, signed a sub-licensing deal with rights holders Viaplay for live Welsh language coverage of the Cymru men’s team.

Anyone in Wales – or the rest of these isles for that matter – could tune into S4C and watch the thrilling, if disappointing, conclusion to Wales’ qualifying campaign last week.

The announcement last year that Viaplay were pulling out of sports broadcasting in the UK means we simply don’t know what might happen in the short term to Scotland’s TV rights.

Some have been sublicensed to BBC Scotland, such as last week’s friendly against Northern Ireland.

But ultimately what is needed is a framework that works in the longer term, ensuring no financial detriment to the game while guaranteeing parity of access for all.

On 14th June this year, Scotland will open up Euro 2024 against the hosts, Germany.

The whole continent will be watching us kick off the finals, and everyone in this country will be able to join them, regardless of household finances.

Let’s make sure that becomes the norm sooner rather than later, for every Scotland game in the many, hopefully successful, years to come.

It’s not too late to sign the petition and make your voice heard: