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Noisy neighbours not the only problem for Scottish punters  
Scottish Football
 by  BrianHargadon 
Scottish football is in danger of becoming a minority sport. The steamrollering advance of the English Premier League and the relative lack of cash thereby flowing into the game north of the border has seen what was not so long ago one of Europe’s most keenly contested leagues reduced to a pale shadow of its former glory..

Although the picture is not entirely black and white, an extensive recent STV survey shows that the general trend across the piece is for falling attendances. There is hardly a better barometer for the game’s public standing. It may not have reached any sort of crisis point yet, but Scottish league football is in a worrying state of decline.

Celtic’s dominance in the top flight means that the betting interest in that perennial favourite - which of the Big Two will come out on top - is simply not part of the picture. The recent one-sided League Cup semi-final clash between the sides only served to point up just how uncompetitive the situation is currently. It also demonstrated just how much that rivalry is being missed. The game was the most gambled on game in Scottish footballing history - although that may have had as much to do with the predictability of the outcome as the momentousness of the occasion itself.

The fact that the second tier involves Rangers, as well as Hearts and Hibs this season has been hailed as a bonus for the championship. But there is no disguising the fact that second tier football represents a second rate product when it comes to attracting customers through the door as well as the all-important TV viewers. As much as those championing the merits of the Championship might try, it is not an entirely convincing pitch.

And there are knock on effects to this downturn. Scottish football betting has traditionally been disproportionately popular amongst punters and, of course a correspondingly steady earner for bookmakers. But diminished crowds find their corollary in lower takes amongst the bookies, and although it is a somewhat indirect loop, it eventually comes back to hit the clubs in terms of reduced advertising revenue, and a less ‘sticky’ media product to sell to TV.

Operating in the long dark shadow of the Premier League, Scottish football is in danger of withering away. Recent claims by Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney that the BBC are underpaying Scottish clubs for their coverage mean about as much as the banging of an empty stable door - that horse has well and truly bolted. What the BBC pays is - much like Sky and BT’s recent £5.1 billion Premiership deal - a reflection of the public appetite for the product itself.

As this season’s one-off Celtic Rangers game illustrated, there is still a huge latent appetite for football betting on big games clashes in Scotland. But as things stand, conditions are serving to suppress rather than stimulate that appetite.

In sport there are always winners and losers. Currently, the big win that the English Premier League has enjoyed appears to be - in part at least - at the expense of its Scottish counterpart. Sadly for those involved, that noisy neighbour is not the only problem blighting the game north of the border right now.

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