Football

Why BBC Radio Scotland Missed a Trick by Ignoring Lower Leagues During Premiership Winter Break

Why BBC Radio Scotland Missed a Trick by Ignoring Lower Leagues During Premiership Winter Break

When the full-time whistles sounded around the country on the penultimate day of 2017, the Ladbrokes Premiership shut shop for their winter break. BBC Scotland did so too, cancelling their usual output to pop their feet up and enjoy a well deserved break from all that football.

There’s only one problem with this whole picture, though.

The winter break only features the top flight clubs, meaning that all the other Scottish leagues are continuing on unaffected. Although you’d be forgiven for missing that fact on the 2nd of January, as BBC Radio Scotland chose to ignore the lower leagues altogether.

Derbies across the land bringing in crowds in the high six figures and yet not an ounce of coverage on radio from our national broadcaster. Why?

With the 2nd falling on a bank holiday in Scotland, it was the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on the teams and leagues that are so often overlooked by the media in this country. The sides and divisions that are the backbone of the game in Scotland. Good, community clubs that battle on every weekend against the unstoppable force of the English Premier League and their coverage from Jeff Stelling and company.

Scotland is a football daft nation, so is it too outrageous to suggest that had BBC Sportsound put out, for example, a preview show looking ahead to the fixtures that even a handful of people may have tuned in and decided to pop along to watch their local side?

Clubs, especially those who are part-time or amateur, rely on the click of a turnstile to keep them running. If ten more people than usual had turned up to one of their games then that’s one player’s wage paid that week.

Promoting the lower leagues isn’t just to the benefit of the clubs however. It should help ameliorate everyone involved. When Jim Spence ran his ‘Beyond the SPL’ show on Radio Scotland a while back, the access he got to the smaller clubs was incredible. From that, the BBC and the listener both benefited greatly. Radio Scotland tapped into a market they were missing out on; the listener learned more about the smaller clubs in their area and beyond; and the clubs had access to free promotion of what they do to a nationwide audience.

Whilst I understand the Old Firm-centric attitude of the media to an extent, that’s what sells, there is plenty of scope to expand their horizons.

BBC Radio Scotland for example, usually run an hour-long show Monday to Friday as well as two feature length episodes at the weekend. Even if just one of those magazine-style midweek shows was set aside for the lower leagues then the benefits to the game in Scotland as a whole would be there for all to see.

The, at times, blatant disrespect shown to teams who happen to fall outwith the classification of ‘big club’ isn’t limited to Pacific Quay however. At the start of January, the Scottish Football Supporters Association launched a report on the future of Hampden Park with the opening tidbit of “Ordinarily nobody would take much notice of what anybody from Queen’s Park would say.” The looking down your nose attitude to a club with the history of Queen’s Park is astonishing. Everybody connected with Scottish football should be working together to make the game in this country as strong as possible, and that includes clubs from League One down.

The more potential fans that we can encourage to turn their back on Stelling and embrace their local side on a Saturday afternoon the better. That would allow smaller clubs to not only continue but expand their community outreach work that plays a vital role in towns up and down the land. It would help clubs invest in facilities that not only benefit themselves but the local area as a whole. It would help clubs thrive rather than scrape by.

So, whilst the Premiership teams have their feet up this January, I challenge you to find out more about your local club and pay them a visit. Independent sources like The Terrace Podcast for example do a tremendous job of highlighting smaller clubs, and I’d urge you all to check out their lower league shows as well as weekly ‘Best Players in the Lower League’ articles.

Let’s help make Scottish football as strong as possible.

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