“Football and Television in Edinburgh” : I didn’t say “Scotland” as it might be different elsewhere.
I was prompted to this by my struggles yesterday afternoon to watch ITV’s live coverage of the FA Cup Fourth Round tie between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, a suburban London side. Scottish ITV weren’t showing it.
Anecdotally, I pick up that Scottish ITV don’t take the ITV FA Cup live feed. Not doing so opens up a prime slot of some size into which can go programming that’s either from Scotland or relevant to Scotland.
Everyone can see the point of that, if that really is the policy. But what were they showing yesterday instead? This…
Scotland has some good young players coming through at the moment, and the future looks brighter than it has done for some time. So SITV’s decision had the immediate result of preventing young Scots from watching Scottish players (well, Scottish international and oftimes captain Darren Fletcher) and a Scottish manager performing at the highest level. (Alan Hutton was never going to play – foot injury – but none of the other live Cup action was shown either, so I’m guessing that the decision makers didn’t know or care).
In Edinburgh pubs, people watch whatever’s on. On one occasion, we were the only people in a bar who didn’t have a Scottish accent. Scotland’s game had just finished, and the choice facing the assembly was to stick around for the punditry, or retune to watch England’s match. The TV was retuned, and England’s game went ahead – with only a moment’s jocular jeering from one individual, who was immediately frowned into silence.
There’s as much interest in the Premiership as in England – I’ve lost count now of the number of lifelong Edinburgh people I’ve run into or overheard who support Arsenal, or Liverpool, or, unsurprisingly, Newcastle. I don’t know if it’s the religious question that puts such people off from local teams, and in Edinburgh, I’d rather doubt it: I’ve had conversations with Hibs and Hearts fans alike and the subject has never arisen. (I met one man who streams text commentary of Hibs games worldwide, which is the excellent flipside of what I’m discussing here).
The Premiership is on in pubs, and advertised on blackboards outside. And, the Saturday evening Spanish game is also shown.
I’d feared, when I realised that I really would be moving up here, that I’d have three years without Match of the Day. Not at all: there it is, on BBC Scotland, large as life at the usual time. It’s Sportscene that gets shunted. MOTD2 will be blocked back by an hour on occasion, which is irritating but understandable.
Of course, and as I am constantly told, this is a rugby town. Walk around and it’s overwhelmingly rugby pitches that you’ll see. You can even witness pick-up games of rugby taking place, which was something that, hitherto, I’d thought confined to the back pages of the Boden catalogue.
And, at least in the middle, it’s a wealthy, literate town with bookshelves visible in the windows, just the sort of place whose sporting life happens mostly on television.
There are soccer pitches. There have to be: Hibs train in my local public park. (A comparative luxury: Aberdeen still train on the beach).
But the soccer pitch that’s highest in my mind tells a different story. It’s beside the old railway line-cum-cycle path, near Granton. Imagine an open space next to some grubby 1950s low-rise flats. On it, picture one rusty metal goal, still standing, in heavily-littered waist-high grass. A little way off, there’s the remains of someone’s unofficial bonfire, and around it, beer cans, half-bottles, cigarette butts.
It doesn’t take a village: a lawn mower would be sufficient here.
(Edinburgh Academicals update: I reported the demolition of the pavilion a couple of months ago. I now discover that there are plans for a large-scale redevelopment, better facilities, and the incorporation of the Raeburn Hotel, which remains boarded up on the site as of now. Presumably the current economic climate is holding all of this up, but the designs I’ve seen are handsome enough).