Thanks to the lunchtime kick off and the free ESPN coverage Motherwell recorded the lowest attendance of the season for the St Mirren game. The reported crowd was 3,621, a dip of 700 from the previous encounters between the teams in October at the same venue. The previous fixtures (Sat Oct 24 4,327 and Tue Oct 27 4,325) included a 7.45pm midweek CIS cup tie. Last season the teams met three times at Fir Park and crowds of 4,786, 5,695 and 6,626 were recorded. Saturday's crowd represented a 16% drop on the October figures and will cost the club dear.
The worst case calculation shows a loss in income of 700x£22 = £15,400. While that figure may be unrealistic we can assume with some confidence that the club might be at least £10,000 better off had the TV company decided not to show the game free on all digital platforms.
So, who wins from the TV deal? Certainly the SPL clubs need the income that live broadcasts generate. Motherwell takes about a third of its gross income from the various media outlets but what sort of product have they bought? Row upon row of empty seats can hardly provide an attractive backdrop for even the most entertaining match (and Saturday's game had little in the way of good football on show). How long will it be until computer generated crowds are superimposed on empty stands?
What about the fans? Everyone accepts that the Scottish game is overpriced and that is doubly apparent when supporters have the option of watching from their armchairs. Surely the time will come when those with influence inside the game start to make decisions aimed at encouraging attendances. A first step would be to ensure that all televised games are priced at bargain basement levels.