My Column

On a winner with our footie.....

  • Date: Monday 29th July 2019
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When considering big Scottish industries, people’s minds tend to turn to the likes of oil and gas, tourism, whisky, agriculture, and more – that’s to be expected.

Yet, while our economy is strong and unemployment is low – with growth driven primarily last year by the services and construction sectors – some industries are still conspicuously less associated with that success.

For instance, the creative industry, gambling, and sport contribute some £8.6 billion, yet rarely get mentioned in the same breath as other industries. Sport alone contributes more than £200m with football playing a significant part in that.

With that in mind, I was fascinated to read a UEFA-commissioned study last year which found that our national game in fact delivers far more – to be precise, a reported return of more than £1.25bn to Scottish society. That includes £300m of social benefits, including crime reduction, and £700m worth of health benefits.

A separate report commissioned by Celtic Football Club concluded that its operation alone contributes around £165m annually to our economy. Some may be surprised to learn that the widely celebrated success of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 fell short of that with its own impact valued at £125m.

In a further surprise, Celtic’s study concluded that its sole contribution to the national coffers was greater than the entire value of golf tourism.

Now, on the brink of a new season, football supporters are more excited than ever at what our product has in store. After a period of stagnation, it’s fair to say that the ‘feel good’ factor has returned and that’s being reflected in ticket sales and TV revenues.

As with all great sporting spectacles that put bums on seats, a compelling contest fought tooth and nail has been at the heart of this renaissance.

A key driver has been Rangers clawing their way back from the ignominy of administration in 2012 and subsequent relegation to the Third Division to once more become a dominant force in the game, injecting fresh domestic and international interest into what had become a one-sided Old Firm spectacle.

Likewise, installing Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard into the Ibrox hotseat has undoubtedly thrown an international spotlight onto Scottish football, in turn heightening its audience pull.

Celtic meanwhile have of course continued to enjoy sustained success across the last decade and profited handsomely from lucrative European runs paired with a savvy recruitment process.

While the loss of manager Brendan Rodgers last season dented a little of their box office bankability, the Parkhead club remain Scotland’s biggest footballing draw, not to mention favourites to win the Premiership for a ninth consecutive time.

It was perhaps no surprise then that a bumper new broadcast deal was agreed with Sky Sports in November, valuing Scottish football at £160m over five years and representing a rise of around 20 per cent on the last combined contract.

The deal, which takes effect in 2020/21, is thought to be worth around £26m per season. By comparison, the existing deal struck with Sky and BT was reportedly worth around £17.5m per season.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster called the new agreement “the largest ever injection of broadcast investment since the SPL was founded over 20 years ago”.

Many continue to write off Scottish football, and those detractors are typically entrenched in their beliefs, but the numbers are increasingly speaking for themselves.

Our game does have significant value – the fans have recognised it, the money men at Sky have recognised it, and surely further investors will continue to recognise it.

Here’s to our increasingly pitch perfect sporting product as we count down to the big league kick-off on 3 August.



I was pleased to see Facebook getting hammered with a £4bn fine after a US privacy probe – an example simply must be made of the social media giant.

It’s a clear warning sign that significant regulatory action will be taken against those who mishandle user data, and it’s to be applauded.

Following the now notorious Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook was accused of ‘deceiving’ users about their ability to keep personal information private.

Essentially, the authorities believed that Facebook knew user data had been misused in 2015, but it reported that it had found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Instead, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that personal data had indeed been illegally harvested from an online personality quiz and sold to Cambridge Analytica. The long and short of this is that the app collected the data of those taking the quiz, but also harvested the public data of their friends.

So while only 305,000 people installed the app, it actually gathered information on up to 87 million people.

Worse, many other developers also took advantage of the data without having received authorisation.

Put into context, the fine is the largest given out by the FTC for a violation of consumer privacy – and by some margin. The previous largest fine was £220m, but crucially, the punishment meted out to Facebook reflects the scale of the breach.

If data is the new oil, then Facebook is one of the biggest holders of the world’s most valuable commodity.

However, while it’s an understatement to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s globe-straddling platform has done incredibly well over the past 15 years, Facebook now has a clear duty to safeguard personal information.

It has a huge responsibility to its 2.2 billion users, and quite rightly, the selling of its data will no longer be tolerated.



I’ve heard of a few novel approaches to solving food scarcity – but there’s one that’s really bugging me.

Insect-breeding company Beta Bugs made headlines last week when its founder and CEO Thomas Farrugia said it was his ambition to build the genetic foundations of the ‘insects as protein’ sector through a combination of biotech and breeding.

Beta Bugs has been supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship scheme – effectively a business accelerator – and it’s great to hear that innovative ideas are being invested in.

However, I don’t welcome the day when I might have to chow down on creepy crawlies. That’s just not the kind of ‘grub’ that I want, thank you very much.



I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of so-called reality stars plugging dodgy products on Instagram.

Time and again we’ve seen them being warned by the Advertising Standards Authority over a failure to disclose that they have been paid for being a brand advocate.

Worse, the tendency is for stars to be far from discriminating when it comes to picking and choosing what they will put their name to – and many impressionable followers take their irresponsible word as gospel for purchasing the worrying likes of harmful diet products.

Celebs are now being asked to reference their endorsements in social posts by using hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored.

Will they suddenly heed the warning and develop a sense of moral duty? Sadly, I doubt it.



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