As Celtic season tickets sell out again, is it time to rethink live-streaming rules?

As I sit down to write this latest blog, I am buzzing with excitement. In just 5 days, or the first time since 2012, I will have the chance to see Celtic play live, in person. That it is here in my adopted homeland of Japan, alongside my lovely wife, makes it all the more special.

The last game I attended was at Celtic Park in December 2012. That night, we beat Spartak Moscow to clinch our place in the last 16 of the Champions League. I stood alongside my father and my now dearly departed Uncle Frank as we cheered The Bhoys to a memorable 2-1 win.

More than a decade later, unfortunately my father is not in the best of health, physically or financially. As a disabled retiree, he is the type of person being financially squeezed the most by an increasingly cold, cruel, Conservative government, intent on making life for people unable to work as hard as possible. He is also a full-time carer for my mother, who also has a multitude of medical issues, including being registered blind.

In short, my dad simply can’t afford the time or the money to go and see Celtic play at Celtic Park. The last time I was in Scotland, at the end of 2022, I suggested taking in a game together, but unfortunately, even with me taking care of the tickets and transportation, the combination of his mobility issues and anxiety about leaving my mum at home alone for an entire afternoon meant it just wasn’t workable.

Half the world away

It’s a sad irony of modern media rights, that despite living literally half the world away, I can watch Celtic play live far more regularly than my father can. He might only live about 15 miles from Celtic Park, but it may as well be 15,000 as far as he’s concerned. Meanwhile, my Celtic TV subscription, as substandard as the service is, provides live access to all domestic games.

Now, I apologize in advance for the painful memories I’m about to bring up here, but the 2020-21 season had one bright spot for my father and I. With crowds barred from stadiums thanks to Covid-19, fans had to make do with watching games on TV, my dad included.

It meant that, finally, regardless of whether the likes of Sky, BT Sport or whoever else had opted to pick up the live broadcast rights, we could consistently sit down together, as father and son, every weekend and watch games together. It was like old times, except, being in the luxury of my own home, I could enjoy a beer or two, and I didn’t have to queue for 20 minutes for a half-frozen, half-burnt scotch pie.

The pandemic was unquestionably a horrific time for everyone, regardless of what team you supported.

However, looking back on it now, one benefit to come from all that chaos was that housebound fans, those who are unable to go to large stadiums like Celtic Park due to disability, anxiety or finance were, for the first time in living memory, in the same boat as every other Celtic fan.

I spoke about this on Celtic Down Under at the time and expressed hope that these “online season tickets” might continue to be a thing, post-pandemic. After all, the banning of Saturday, 3 pm games being broadcast live quickly went out the window when governments saw an opportunity to keep a restive public distracted, and broadcasters saw a way to secure even more revenue. On reflection, it seems the benefits to disabled or impoverished supporters were coincidental rather than intentional.

We have seen similar instances in recent times with English Premier League clubs flagrantly disregarding UEFA rules about broadcasting league games at the same time as European ties. They get fined for doing so, but such is their obscene wealth, it doesn’t matter.

I’m reminded of a quote from the Star Trek character Quark, a bar owner and caricature of the worst elements of capitalism. He said: “A fine doesn’t make something illegal. It just means it’s legal, for a price”.



With Celtic’s season tickets already sold out, and a waiting list in the tens of thousands, it’s not just the housebound supporters who need a bit of help here. Ordinary fans are missing out every week too, because we simply don’t have a stadium big enough to meet the demand, and regulators continue to stick to outmoded broadcast rules that are no longer fit for purpose. Or at least, they continue to enforce these rules for inconsequential plebeians like us outside of Europe’s “Big 5” leagues.

Fans deserve better. As IPTV and “dodgy streaming sites” continue to show, people will do whatever they have to in order to watch the game. Clubs like Celtic may as well create a legal, fairly-priced way for them to do so. Ending the ridiculous 3 pm live ban would also have the added knock-on benefit for fans that actually go to the games; a reduction in ridiculous early or late kick-off times to accommodate TV companies.

It’s a simple thing, but it would make life just that wee bit easier for people like my parents who continue to struggle from day to day.

Make all Celtic games available via legal online streaming, regardless of geographical location. Yes, this would require changes in the rules, and a new approach to financing of the game for smaller clubs. However, if there’s one thing we’ve all learned since 2012, it’s that pretty much any rule in Scottish football can be bent or broken when it benefits vested interests.

Liam Carrigan

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