Date: 7th May 2020
Are the Customers Revolting?
Thanks to all those at SFM who along with many others completed our recent FANQ research in astonishing time and also responded both through the SFM blog or direct to my email address.
I’ve had several conversations subsequent with fans as far away as Vancouver, Australia, Kazakhstan, over the border in England and from all corners of Scotland.
I have also discussed our survey results and pointers with people running SPFL clubs
Scottish fans will seldom agree about anything or everything but it is loud and clear that both those running the clubs and the fans share deep concerns about where we have been, where we are now (if anyone actually knows) and most of all with where we are heading.
Ann Budge’s “keep making the same mistakes” statement was oft commented on and mostly liked.
Nearly all fans agree100% with what she is saying, especially her “openness, transparency and pragmatism” plea to the SPFL, and I guess the SFA too, but some were more cynical saying that words are cheap.
The kind of words we only seem to hear when there is a crisis before it all gets forgotten.
In the meantime our game and our clubs are blindfolded, wheeching down the slippiest steep slope to the biggest full-blown crisis our game has ever seen.
All are deeply concerned but there is no hindsight or experience to look back on.
It’s all scary and very, very real new territory.
Panic is on the horizon.
Perhaps the biggest manifestation of this is the current war of words and posturing in the MSM that has erupted since the SPFL Good Friday vote.
At the same time the well-respected Dr John Mclean was talking recently in deeply chilling terms about just what social distancing means for our game. Without a vaccine or other game changer there is no easy path forward.
Dr Mclean’s vision of a dystopian world should be all we’re all talking about and preparing for.
Players will not be able to play.
Fans would not be able to attend.
Paying customers will have less money to spend because the economy will have a tumble after an initial sharp boom.
Club revenue streams will be decimated from all directions.
Long established clubs will run out of money.
In the meantime we continue to see a lot of running round like headless chickens trying to achieve all manner of things based on historic thinking and practices that have been rendered as useless as Andre Maginot’s famous line.
A defence line that became obsolete overnight and useless when needed.
That is where we are right now.
No real defence or strategy as a football community against the indeterminate financial chaos that is descending.
A world with extreme revenue challenges about to hit a system that some feel is dominated by self-interested members trying to play by the old mantras and allegiances.
Not a great place to be for all of us.
It was against this and in good faith that we submitted our collective response to Les Gray last Friday.
We know our football world will have to be rebuilt bottom up and we don’t pretend to have all the answers.
We do know that independent fan involvement will provide a framework that ensures Ann Budge’s plea for openness, transparency and pragmatism becomes more than rhetoric.
Not so Much as Revolting as Never More Needed
(Draft Response on behalf of Scottish Football Supporters Association)
In a time where you will be being bombarded with stuff from all directions here are the abbreviated findings and recommendations from our fast research FanQ panel with further qualitative insights from two group sessions.
To use the old adage I’m not going to bore you with statistics because these are not boring statistics.
87% of fans believe their on-going representation in what happens would be a benefit to Scottish Football.
84% of fans believe they currently have no say.
75% of fans agree that ending the season under UEFA guidelines is the best path.
64% of fans think relegations as planned by the recent SPFL vote is unfair and should be revisited.
When interrogated further we see that fans accept that there are two requirements.
1 An end to season 2019-2020 and a plan for football returning.
2 Changes to how the game is set up and run.
1 Ending Season 2019 -2020
(Set against the reality that right now nobody knows what the situation really is or will be. With no certainty of any start date or how social distancing might evolve pre-vaccine, fans believe we should build in flexibility to agree the specifics for next season when more is known and indeed it might be more like the first season after WW2 than a normal year.
The better-informed fans think the situation is much more complex than the reported discussions so far).
Award titles on a pro rata basis as per UEFA
Agree a no relegation status for all clubs.
Respect the pyramid at the bottom end.
Consider providing extra help for clubs (in the way a parent company would help out a subsidiary at time of strife).
Having last week hear that League 2 have already endorsed a 14,14,14 set up fans are confused to where their certainty to do this has come from.
As of now there remain too many unknowns.
There is now a deep seated and growing point of view that the first season back will have to be interim because of the start date uncertainties and to allow for any club casualties in this economic winter.
By all means have a plan to keep status quo of 12,10,10,10 if that is what clubs want or 14,14,14 as voted last Friday by some clubs.
We would advocate a 14,14,16 to respect the pyramid as a starting point and indeed fourteen team leagues would stop the iniquity of the current 2/3 home game options post-split we have now.
But we would counsel SPFL not to commit in anything more than principle and to build in flexibility to avoid chaos downstream. An open plan is fine.
Truncation with clubs not surviving or being severely damaged is more likely than not and government driven fan control and safety policies will have a huge impact on logistics and revenues.
There are just too many unknowns to come up with anything more than guidelines.
2 Changes to how our game is set up and run into the future.
(All fans deep down accept that money has become the main driver in any football business discussion and have a love hate relationship with the power of TV.
There is a body of opinion that thinks post Covid 19 revenue streams and business plans will be different. Footballers wages will fall and at some clubs previous player assets will have become liabilities).
Consumer spending power will have fallen, sponsorships and hospitality will be harder to engage, fans will drift away and big contract game-changing providers like Sky may even play hardball and seek to reduce the agreed payments.)
Larger leagues would be welcomed by fans as 83% of fans don’t like playing the same opposition 4 times a year.
But a successful future has to be based on more than a tweaking of the current leagues.
Ann Budge, Task force co-chair recently was quoted as saying “Without openness, transparency and pragmatism we will simply keep making the same mistakes”.
Fans like what she has said but there is cynicism that the last things people in power in football want are openness, transparency and pragmatism rather than the current self-interest driven scenario.
Elephants in the Football Room of Change
These are in alphabetical order and have all come from various SFSA surveys. Some are contradictory.
Better communication from SFA and SPFL, Bigger Leagues, Community involvement, Different allocation of prize-monies, Fairness, Family Friendly, Fan Friendly, Full financial fair play, Gate Sharing, Grass Roots investment, Kick off times, Fewer Clubs, Independent national referee provision out-with SFA, Integrity, Kids free, Leadership, Less leagues, No Bigotry, Openness, Outside expertise, Same rules for all, Schools football, Simplicity, Standing sections, Summer Football, Regional lower SPFL leagues, Reserve Leagues, Strict liability, Transparency, Wholesome Sponsors……
There are so many issues but unaddressed they will all keep coming back and sucking up resource and energy.
It’s the openness transparency and pragmatism thing again.
SFSA Don’t Have All the Answers
We are independent and that is important.
We understand that in every winner/loser champion/relegation situation we have fans on both sides.
We advocate the only way to address any situation now or moving forward is logically and openly.
We know fan input can make a positive impact to the current SPFL issues and into the future.
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