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Apart from watching a torpid five minutes of Celtic-Everton on Channel 5 this afternoon, I’ve had a relatively football-free weekend. This is what the end of July should be like. A bit of golf on the television, enough cheap Tequila last night to floor an elephant. Lazy days indeed. A time to feel footloose and fancy-free before the stomch-knotting domestic season begins in earnest again. We become, for a few weeks, fully rounded human beings.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. I’ve spent some time downloading bits and pieces over the weekend, and I’m currently girding myself to torrent two hours worth of highlights of the 1979/80 Scottish Premier League. I know that this is alarmingly geeky, but I also know that at least some of you will be insanely jealous. However, the opportunity to own highlights of (amongst other things) Rangers playing in front ot a crowd of 12,000 at Ibrox was just too good to pass up. I’ve also stumbled across the Celtic-Rangers match from 1987 that ended up with four players being charged by the police. I’m not watching that until I’ve got a big tub of popcorn, though.

Of course, the television coverage of football is the one thing that has changed more than anything else over the last twenty years or so. I have something in the pipeline about ITV’s regional coverage of the 1970s & 1980s (and bemoaning the terrible waste of their back catalogue – all the matches that they covered are sitting gathering dust somewhere. Why haven’t they been made available on DVD or to download?), so I’ll stay away from that subject for the time being, but Channel 5’s coverage of Celtic-Everton reminded me of the extent to which it is possible to argue that there simply is too much football on the television these days. A pre-season friendly between Celtic and Everton, not even part of a pre-season tournament, could be of very little interest to anybody other than, well, Celtic & Everton supporters, so why did Channel 5 decide to pack John Helm and chums off to Glasgow?

Well, this sort of football is still cheap broadcasting. To actually produce it costs next to nothing. Five will have bunged Celtic a few quid for the rights, but to actually show it costs them next to nothing. It fills a couple of hours in their schedule at a time when they would be expecting an audience of no more than a few thousand people and, most importantly of all, they know that there are enough people like you and I that will slump down on the sofa at this time of year and watch any football that’s put in front of them. It’s the reason that Channel 5 shows highlights from the Eriedivisie at two in the morning on Fridays (and very good it is, too), and why Channel 4 occasionally sneaks something from Le Championnat into its late night schedule. If nothing else is on, who amongst us doesn’t flick onto Sky Sports News when there’s nothing else on and stare vacantly at the Welsh Premier League’s top goalscorers until we realise that we should be doing something altogether more constructive?

All of which reminds me… I really need to get a HD recorder before the middle of August.

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