Friday, June 17, 2011

SPL: 2011/12 Fixture List Farce

Football fixtures day.

The day the SPL fixture list for 2011/12 is announced. The SFL schedule is coming out as well.

Who'll try to party poop as Rangers, Dunfermline, Livingston and Arbroath unfurl their championship flags?

When will the derbies of Edinburgh and Glasgow be scheduled?

What's the first away trip you fancy? When's the much anticipated trip to East End Park for a bridie (the football at East End Park is forever a secondary concern)?

It's a day people look forward to. We move, with the fixture list in our sweaty grasp, a step away from the phoney war of summer and a step closer to actually playing football again.

Yet I won't be reporting the fixtures as they appear today.

If you have been brave, if you've been loyal, if you've stuck with me throughout the torrent of rubbish I have subjected my readers to over the last season, then you might remember a football fixture farrago from this time last year.

As I wrote about it at the time I'm loathe to revisit an old moan.

Actually I'm not.

I'm delighted to revisit it. Because I think it shows just what a grubby, greedy, desperate bunch the people who run our game are. And it really pissed me off then and continues to piss me off now.

Last year I wrote about the fixture list when it was released. I had time on my hands, the opportunity was there, I wrote and I posted. And thought no more of it.

I didn't reproduce every single fixture that was announced. I listed the first couple of weeks, brought attention to a couple of tasty looking dates and signposted readers through to the relevant league bodies to get the lists in full.

That was all.

Then I received an email from a company called Net Result acting on behalf of Data Co Limited who in turn act on behalf of the SPL and the SFL:

In order to display the Fixture Lists you must obtain the necessary licence from the Press Association.

The Leagues have appointed the Press Association as their official agent for the licensing and distribution of the Fixtures List. If you have inadvertently infringed our clients' copyright please take immediate steps to contact the Press Association to obtain the appropriate licence. Please confirm to us by e-mail that you are now seeking an appropriate licence. Because of the time sensitive nature of the Fixture Lists you are required to remove them immediately from your site pending the granting of a licence.

We wish to make you aware that we have a good faith belief that your present use is an infringement of the Leagues' legal rights and that all such unauthorised use must cease immediately. Please confirm by return your agreement to this and give your undertaking to cease all such infringements on any and all of your web sites. Pending your response the Leagues' rights are fully reserved.

It would cost over five grand for the right to display the SPL and SFL fixtures on this blog. A real bargain.

That's a standard rate that applies if you have 100 million readers or if you have five readers. It applies if you make millions from your website or if you make bugger all.

Don't think you can get round it with a Lilliputian-like response of made up names. You can't. Others have tried it and the league's hounds have sniffed them out.

I'm not the only person to have been contacted. I probably won't be the last - although their success rate in hunting down the infringers seems somewhat sporadic.

Does this matter? Yes, I think it does.

There are certain events that you don't want publicity for. If I'm 16 and I've got a 'free hoose' then I probably don't want the scheduling of the party I plan to hold to be spread around the internet.

If I'm organising a major sporting event where success depends on people actually showing up then I would like to spread as much information about that event as possible.

I would want publicity through as many channels as I could find. I'd want that information out there and I'd want people to reproduce it, write about it, celebrate it.

I'd not charge them for the privilege.

But I'm not someone entrusted with ensuring the survival of Scottish football clubs. It folllows that I don't know anything.

On the 27th November last year 2280 watched an SPL game between Hamilton and St Mirren.

Clearly with attendances that healthy there is no way in the world you'd want as many people as possible to find out when the games are on.

I actually considered jacking in this blogging lark I was so disgusted when I got the email last year.

I persevered. I probably infringed again over the course of the season - "He's previewing the games? Heaven help us, people might actually discover football in Scotland still exists, get a cease and desist communication to him as soon as possible!" - but I didn't hear anymore.

It strikes me that to actually reinvigorate the game, actually do something about how crap it can be rather than just talk about doing something, then a lot of people are going to have to stop behaving like arseholes.

That takes self awareness.

There is none.

The attitude to their preciously guarded fixture list is indicative of their general attitude to the game:

"It's ours. We own it. We'll sell it. We'll make money from it. The fans? F*ck the fans. Why would we want them to know when games are being played?"

The way football is discussed, written about, celebrated, slagged, enjoyed and recorded is changing. The authorities aren't changing with it.

I'll respect their edicts on how we find out about fixture lists. But in sticking with their regulations they are absolutely proving that they're the wrong people to change our game for the better.

> Heard from Net Result over this? Get in touch and share your experiences. The rules apply to the SPL, SFL and the English leagues.

> A bit more background from last season