Is there anyone in football who continues to believe that TV is bad for the game? Never forget that within active, living memory, curtailment, not expansion, was the order of the day. It is useful to remember, long before satellite TV appeared, spreading riches, that a majority of the game's senior administrators were evidently convinced fans would stop attending games in decent numbers if they could watch them for nothing, in the comfort of their own home, or over a glass or two in their favourite pub.
One leading member of the league management committee, Tom Hart, a self-made millionaire builder from Tranent and owner of Hibs, believed fervently that football – any football, but especially 'live' football – on TV would be ruinous for the game.
Then a season's highlights, calculated on a weekly basis, could be purchased for a sum adjacent to what one of our present-day stars might drop on a modest night out, as a tip.
It was Hart, who, in an amazing coup de theatre, brought George Best to Easter Road. Hart paid the former great £2,000 a match, cash in hand (out of his own pocket) to appear. Others in the Easter Road line-up were on a basic £110 a game. Value for money? Prior to Best's arrival, Hibs' home games usually attracted 4,000-strong crowds to Easter Road. On 1 December 1979, when the former winner of the Ballon d'Or (awarded annually to Europe's leading player) made his home debut against Partick Thistle, 20,622 fans poured through the Easter Road turnstiles. Say what you want, Tom Hart deserved his triumph.
I always regretted that the gruff, straight-talking builder never brought the same dynamic flair to talks involving the football authorities and television. On one occasion, when the two sides met to discuss their differences, he was asked by one exasperated TV executive (me) why lucrative advertising boards had been positioned opposite the main stand at Easter Road. 'For the benefit of people in the main stand', he replied, quite ignoring the presence of the TV cameras positioned in the same location.
Ground advertising was in its infancy and the idea of sponsorship barely understood. All this changed remorselessly after January 1977 when the World Radio Conference, meeting in Geneva, allocated five direct broadcast by satellite (DBS) channels to the UK. Could this be the start of a great new television age, not just here, but across the world?
In Britain, to no-one's great surprise, two of the new channels were awarded, without much in the way of discussion, to the BBC. The state broadcaster's only meaningful competitor, ITV, was barely considered. Sharing with a competitor wasn't part of the BBC's empire-driven DNA. However, it was soon evident, even to the most gung-ho operator working in the upper reaches of BBC management, that broadcasting by satellite was no ordinary development. At the very least, it was out-of-this-world expensive.
Again, no-one was greatly surprised when ITV was finally invited to join the mix, leading eventually to an epic confrontation between British Satellite Broadcasting (the IBA's first choice as its representative in space) and Sky Television, headed by Rupert Murdoch.
Adding to the excitement, this was a period when colour licenses in the UK outnumbered black-and-white for the first time. And 'viewer choice' was preparing its headlong rush to the future.
It didn't take much in the way of foresight to realise that the arrival of satellite TV and the introduction of video cassette recorders (VCRs) were made for each other. No-one appeared to mind when these simple-to-operate machines first appeared, and long before there was a video rental shop (sometimes two) on every high street, it was against the law to record programmes direct from the TV screen for viewing at home later. Presumably, this changed.
The latest contract between the Scottish Professional Football League and Sky is worth a reported £160 million. Diehards say this isn't nearly enough and point to the billions shared by clubs in England. Right from the beginning, when satellite started, there was never any likelihood that Scottish football might one day enjoy the same massive attention – and subsequent financial rewards – the game in England attracted.
Strangely, considering the amount of time and effort the new satellite providers devoted to wresting football rights away from the existing broadcasters, no-one appeared to notice that their plans required the blessing of the SFA. The nature of the satellite 'footprint' meant matches shown in England would be seen in Scotland. FIFA regulations stipulated that no football could be shown on television without the express permission of the local governing body.
For those in charge of Scottish football, comfortably based at Park Gardens, home of the Scottish Football Association, and West Regent Street, where the Scottish Football League was quartered, it must have appeared a bit like striking at an open goal. Did they miss? Personally, I don't think so.
Russell Galbraith is a writer and former television executive