Football: They Said We Were on Our Uppers - Now We're on the UP &UP; TV DEAL PUTS BOOMING SCOTTISH FOOTBALL BACK ON MAP Gold's Joys as SPL Crowds Rise along with Setanta Subscribers
Byline: By Hugh Keevins
TWO years ago they said Setanta wouldn't last and the product it was attempting to revive, the SPL, was on its last legs.
Yesterday, the company's I managing director Roger Hall and the Premier League's executive chairman Lex Gold were a blue chip double act dancing on the graves of their pessimistic critics.
They were trying to avoid appearing smug in the face of statistics which prove their commercial marriage is one that might have been made in financial heaven.
And it was at no expense to the soul of a game that has a much healthier complexion than the pallour it wore when Setanta undertook their rescue package.
Gold said: "Attendances at matches were up by three per cent at the end of Setanta's first season with a long with us and this season those figures will rise by a further four per cent.
"In total, 3.7million people will watch our matches over the course of this season which is the biggest boom in attendances since the 50s."
A live game in those black and white days of terrestrial television only would have been a licence payer's dream.
Now Setanta are pledging to bring 60 matches per season into the homes of their 150,000 subscribers.
Gold said: "Over 100 countries now take the SPL. But I'm trying to sound satisfied without being smug because there is still such a long way to go.
"Harsh lessons have had to be learned and it's no secret that a number of our clubs have faced a tough time financially.
"A combination of Bosman and the collapse of the television deal we had with Sky created that hardship.
"Now the product on the park is attractive to the spectator and the production values attached to Setanta's coverage have proved to be a winner with the viewing audience."
But the SPL won't rest on its laurels and a 'strategy day' planned for June will come up with fresh ideas to move the Premier League further forward.
Gold said: "We'll start off by getting Andy Roxburgh, the former Scotland manager now working for UEFA, to bring over European coaches for a day's work at all of our SPL clubs.
"We have to be open to ideas that keep us at the highest level. I'm aware that Rangers will bring in a foreign manager of their own, Paul Le Guen, before then and we hope he will add to the attractiveness of our product.
"But there is an emphasis on rearing our own young players and, while we are traditionally good at putting ourselves down, there is strong, statistical evidence that the picture is bright.
"I'm normally required to speak on behalf of the SPL when there's trouble and blood on the walls. …