In the wake of this week’s Capital One Cup 3rd Round ties and the draw for the 4th round of the competition, a looming crisis for the BSkyB organisation – rights holders for live TV coverage – has been revealed. The draw has thrown up ties between Newcastle and Manchester City, clearly a glamour tie – and also, before the determination of the West Bromwich versus Arsenal 3rd round game, the winners of that were pitted against Chelsea. Arsenal duly went on to knock West Brom out on penalties, to confirm a London derby against Chelsea at the Emirates – and Sky TV were thrown into immediate crisis.
The problem lies in the unacknowledged Sky protocol known within the organisation by the secret code-phrase “Some Clubs Ultimately Matter” (SCUM). The origin of this protocol goes back at least eight years in the case of the FA Cup. Statistics for the secondary League Cup competition are not available owing to its comparative lack of importance. However, a Sky TV spokesperson admitted that the last Man U game not to have been broadcast live was “a bloody long time ago, like when Noah was a lad”.
The SCUM protocol is of such importance to Sky TV’s marketing and commercial departments that it is regarded as the prime reference document when live TV games are chosen. Hence the dilemma now being faced by decision-makers, who normally at least attempt to put up some sort of justification for selecting yet another tedious Man U stroll at an embarrassingly quiet Theatre of Hollow Myths. Off the record, a Sky commentator remarked, “We’ve got a problem this time. People are going to want to see the two obvious stand-out ties in the next round. Newcastle v City and Arsenal v Chelsea are both huge. We’ll struggle to justify leaving one of those out to cover Man U reserves diving for penalties against a pallid side like Norwich”.
There was some glimmer of hope for the Sky executives in the short time between the draw being made and the end of the West Brom v Arsenal tie. Sky Sports News covered the penalty shoot-out at the Hawthorns by remote reporting, and it would appear that pundit Alan McInally had failed to read the SCUM script. Executives and studio presenters alike cringed as the Scot egged on Arsenal’s collection of spotty pubescent junior footballers to convert the penalties needed for victory. It is expected that McInally may be carpeted and reminded of his responsibilities to shareholders.
“The problem is,” confirmed Sky’s un-named spokesperson, “if we failed to show a Man U cup game, we’d get flooded with complaints from Devon, Cornwall, the Home Counties – all over the south of England really. That’s a lot of Sky subscriptions – we have to take our commercial survival seriously. That’s why the SCUM protocol is so important to us.”
A high-level meeting is expected in the next few days to try and thrash out some acceptable fiction whereby either the game at Newcastle or the one at Arsenal can be omitted to allow the organisation to fulfill its obligations to SCUM and the Man U supporters, the bulk of whom live within easy travelling distance of Sky’s Isleworth HQ. “We have to sort this out,” said one harrassed executive, “At the end of the day, SCUM is too vital to us all for considerations of mere football merit to prevail.”