Car crash radio
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
Car crash radio, is that a thing?
I have heard of it being used to describe the TV because it is a visual thing, but recently, I nearly crashed the car as I listened to Sportsound.
I often find myself, using a podcast service, to catch up on the various broadcasts that I miss during the week. Sticking one on in the car leads to a journey filled with opinions which make the travelling that bit easier, though in the current circumstances I am a tad behind in my usual flurry of podcasts of choice; us being denied the big journeys at the mo!
And so, I found myself listening on one of my daily walks, to the dulcet tones of former Ayr United boss and current Partick Thistle manager, Ian McCall, bemoaning decisions which affected his recent cup game against Dundee United. Alongside him, Craig Levein and Stephen Pressley contributed to the debate which was raging. And to be honest, raging was the emotion being kept in check by Ian.
The focus of Ian’s ire, was how, at the hands of officials, Partick Thistle had been denied progress in the Scottish Cup, against Premier League Dundee United. He contended that an off the ball incident where his player, Brian Graham ended up nursing seriously bruised ribs was one where the officials saw nothing wrong.
McCall, keen to emphasise that he was not normally a moaner about referees and indeed had spent a great deal of time cultivating a positive relationship with the men in black was suggesting that there was a need, at least, for transparency in refereeing that would see Steven McLean, the match official incurring his wrath, some form of punishment for his woeful performance. After all, he mused, the players and the club were suffering due to his decisions. They would be out of pocket and in a pandemic, both player sand club could do with the cash boost.
Stephen Pressley went a little further, in a positive frame of mind, suggesting that a full-time professional set up would support the development of standards of refereeing across the leagues and throughout the country. By having a full time focus on the laws of the game, fitness and the way in which decisions are made would allow people who are pivotal to the game, he suggested, be more likely to make better informed decisions though human error may always play a part.
Furthermore, he suggested, VAR should come into the Scottish game as a form of support for referees to be available should there be a contentious decision on the pitch.
And who did the Scottish Football Association send along to defend the current system? Darryl Broadfoot.
Broadfoot’s response was to castigate people for daring to criticize the referees in the manner they were. Such over the top criticism would, he conjectured, hamper the recruitment of quality officials and therefore we would end up with people being put off the game. Why would you ever want to become a referee when you are likely to be castigated in this manner, he mused. He was able to tell the assembled throng that any match official who had a bad performance would be marked down.
Ian McCall et al, asked what that meant.
Well, it meant, he said, that they would be, you know, marked down.
Now, in one sense Darryl Broadfoot played an absolute blinder. He represented the SFA perfectly. He gave no answer and returned to the whole question of people not wanting to become referees because of the behaviour of others. As to the issues around full time and VAR, there seemed to be a great deal of obfuscation and not much by way of explanation as to why these might not be utilized, though I am sure it may have been mentioned that it could be looked into at some point, in the future, in the fullness of time, once a preliminary point of view is settled and the possibilities have been measured against the gain we may see over a period of time as yet to be determined.
On the other hand, being marked down appeared to be beyond his limited understanding of the refereeing policy and procedure of the SFA. Mind you he did suggest at times that only people who are qualified should have a view.
It is clear he has never been a referee so why was he rolled out to express an opinion about them, may have been a question running over in his mind then; it was certainly running over a few of ours.
No matter whether you are in favour of the current regime or not, refereeing in Scotland has a checkered past. The lid was blown off the pot by Charlie Richmond who left the team of referees as he knew he would be more likely, even as a grade 1 referee to stand in the centre at Central Park than in the Bernabeu.
He was simply, not the right sort. He did not have the right accent and he was just simply not one of them.
I know what he means.
My own experience came in a tribunal where the compliance officer at the time suggested that as one of the officials was a professional man, that his word was beyond reproach. I did not use, and I should have done, the fact that one of the witnesses against him was a serving police officer as I was foolish enough to trust the system. I am not suggesting that because he was a serving police officer he was also beyond reproach but the issue of setting the ground rules on the basis of the right sort and then ignoring them is my point.
I believe that referees should be full time. I am unsure of the scale of payment for refereeing just now, but reckon it might be a bit above minimum wage, but I am quiet sure that up and down Scotland there are working class guys who are out every week helping their youth and pub teams, involved in football who would hand in their tools if an opportunity to study the game, become more knowledgeable and be the type of support for the game we need was available to them.
Controversy of course with referees is hardly a new thing; especially for Thistle. In 2018, Kris Doolan scored against Morton, with match officials, deciding it wisnae in! Thistle had celebrated – hardly proof of a goal, but the opposition had hoofed the ball away in disgust – slightly better proof! Thistle fumed, Alan Archibald, manager at the time, was left bemused – fortunately Thistle won anyway but his point was well made. Quoted in the Guardian he said, “I’m just glad it didn’t have an effect on the outcome. The referee could have overruled [the assistant], and the other assistant can see it and just say: ‘The linesman has had a bit of a bad day there, can we help him out?’”
Nothing contentious there, no need for anyone to be disciplined, all good. People are human. Some however are still trying to organise their playpens.
Professional and full time refereeing does not need a think tank.
It does not need a report.
It does require some action and some movement.
Because the current temperature in the game about the standards of officialdom is quite low. Being sensitive to how people feel about things is perhaps exemplified by, Mr. Broadfoot, who left Ian McCall somewhat offended by reference to the results he has been having with Thistle; his suggestion seemed to be that McCall was not complaining about referees when results, went his way. McCall suggested that this was a “low blow.”
After McCall went off air, Broadfoot commented, that people would hardly think they actually got on. The silence that followed from the rest of the participants and host, Richard Gordon, made me stop walking. They were incredulous. And so was I. thus demonstrating that once the playpen has been escaped, sensitivity training might be a good idea.
Action and movement, however, needs commitment to change and listening to others. As I said, Darryl Broadfoot played an absolute SFA blinder; more Peaky than Peaches.
Andy’s Sting In The Tale (16/04/2021) “Self Interest Vs The Power of the Pyramid”
What Are You Doing Monday?
5 Things to Ponder as Freedom Breaks Out Across Scotland
1 Scottish Football’s Very Unusual Pyramid Scheme
2 Standing to Attention for the Gunners?
3 Maxie Thanks Us (The SFSA) and Announces New Sponsor For the Scottish Cup
4 The Cost of Coaching
5 Two Jambo Fingers to the Self-Interested?
Still No Fans at Games
In a week where our First Minister has started a rush to the hills as lockdown eases there are still no fans allowed in the open air at games.
“That is a nonsense Jason and Nicola”.
This strange ‘Year of the Covid’ has exposed and magnified the stark fact that there is little trust and even less faith between our politicians and those who run our game.
Because of that the game itself and we the fans have suffered.
The SFSA on your behalf have asked in vain, several times over, for some Paul Cave* thinking from the usual suspects. That term of endearment includes Neil, his board and employees, Ian his boards, committees and employees and their secretive JRG love child. (If you’ve never heard of it the JRG is a three lettered, cobbled-together, camel of a Pandemic Management Board that doesn’t feel the need to be accountable or transparent in any way to the baseline stakeholders, the fans).
The outcome remains stark.
No fans at games.
Neil and Maxie that is a disgrace.
Self Interest Vs The Power of the Pyramid Heading Our Way
We can all see it coming like a slow motion train crash.
It happened last year and at the time was dropped into the very long grass below the 6th Floor at Hampden.
There should have been a contracted, 4 stage series of sign-ups/agreements. That didn’t happen. Instead therewas a simpler “Take it or leave it” from the SPFL on behalf of its members to the SFA.
The SFA to its lasting discredit and shame did nothing about it. That lack of action let members down.
If you didn’t know, (and why would you or should you), Monday is now deadline day for this year.
This has not been reported in the usual press releases from The Big Partnership, the SPFL’s PR gurus.
Ask yourself why?
Anyway Monday is the day when the SPFL meet to come to their predetermined conclusion that the Highland League declared champions, Brora, and the Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts will not play off this year.
That means the SPFL want no club to get the right to play Brechin City, bottom last year and overwhelming favourite to be bottom again this year for a place in SPFL2.
Neil and his team are well advised in all this by SPFL consigliere, ex Scottish Solicitor of the year on two occasions, Rod McKenzie.
Rod and his current boss, ex solicitor Neil will not however just tell Maxie and his two clubs to ’getae’ like happened year.
The plan for 2021 as we come out of restrictions is a lot smarter than that and goes something like this.
The Thinking Behind No Pyramid Play-Off
Neither of the two feeder leagues actually played a full season this year.
And in both cases the champions were declared in slightly different circumstances.
(By coincidence it is the same two clubs who won last year and before being consigned to the ‘getae’ pile).
Brora were declared title winners after just three games.
The decision was made by a vote by the Highland League Management Board.
Kelty were declared champions after 13 games from a planned 32 game season. A slight confusion and bone of contention for the bottom Lowland League clubs was that there had been a previous agreement that the league could be called after 50% of fixtures had been completed.
13 games played in the Lowland League accordingly falls 3 short.
It was however a democratic decision though as all clubs in the league voted on the closing the league options that crowned Kelty.
The SFA reacted accordingly to both declarations.
Respecting the bona fide decisions of their two feeder leagues it announced that the play-off dates would be Brora Vs Kelty on April 28th and Kelty Vs Brora on May 1st.
The pyramid ‘Champion’ club would then be in a position for a 2 game final, probably with Brechin.
The SPFL however don’t want a play-off to go ahead.
They won’t say that outright and haven’t said why they feel that way but it is a fact just as it was a year ago.
Take a minute and consider the implications of the SPFL implementing this decision made from the very top.
If you were Neil and Rod you’d try to avoid not just bad press but also potential legal action from the SFA on behalf its members.
I’ve been assured though that ‘the fix is in place’ and a wee hint came in the SPFL statement released, coincidentally, as Brechin Chairman, Ken Ferguson stepped down as League One and Two representative on the SPFL board.
“Our approach has always been to apply the rules that have been agreed by all member clubs as well as the Pyramid Play-Off Rules agreed between the SPFL, the Scottish FA, the Lowland League and the Highland League, and we will do that again this season”.
What does that mean I hear you ask?
The reality is this year the SPFL plan to repel the new and as yet unknown, Pyramid Champion challenge by going legal.
(They also have a backstop that has been simmering for around a month that we will discuss below but for now the plan is to find the right small print and void this year’s pyramid).
How do they plan to achieve this legal fix?
There has been no press release or discussions about this action but it has been underway in the last two weeks to provide advice ahead of Monday’s meeting.
It’s not been cheap either.
The SPFL have briefed and worked with a specialist QC to go through the minutiae of the contract details of how both Brora and Kelty were declared champions.
They are essentially looking for a technical get-out to save Brechin.
If that doesn’t work then they will revert to Plan B.
Conflation is the Mother of Invention
If the legal spend, sorry investment, doesn’t come up with the solution then change will come.
Think of why the two Colts teams have been discussed in the media as the silver bullet for elite kids becoming international footballers.
The much vaunted plans for a 16-team bottom league would allow entry for both Brora and Kelty and the two Glasgow Colts sides.
A move that the vast majority of fans don’t want to happen but why would the SPFL allow fans to get in the way.
Our research shows that:
Football in Scotland needs reorganised.
Leagues should be bigger.
Full time clubs need to have more protection.
Regionality makes sense.
But this all needs thought through, properly and holistically, not on a whim to save a member of a closed community from falling out.
East Stirling and Berwick did not receive this kind of protection and Edinburgh City and Cove have demonstrated how vibrant new blood in our leagues can be.
One chairman pal this morning said to me “The SPFL is the only pyramid scam I’ve ever come across that doesn’t focus on recruitment”.
And to quote an old team mate “The fix is already in from the very top”.
Saluting the Gunners?
I was delighted to see Arsenal despatch Slavia Prague.
Uefa’s 10 game ban for Ondrej Kudela will also keep him out of the Euros.
A polarising episode with no winners.
It is fair to first say the Czechs are not happy.
The photo shows how Slavia refused to ‘take the knee’ before the game Vs the Gunners.
Then Vratislav Mynar, from their country’s president’s office came out fighting and said ”You condemn a decent person without a single piece of evidence. The fight against racism has become the fight of the unsuccessful against the successful, the pinnacle of hypocrisy”.
Ladislav Vizek, ex Czech international said “Allegations of racism were an attempt by Rangers to divert attention from their two red cards. It’s racist against us”.
Meanwhile back in Blighty, ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ said of Uefa’s 10 match ban “This is not a zero tolerance decision, it should have been a year”.
Messy Times ahead as this story grows legs everywhere.
You may not know Marvin Bartley the Livingston skipper also works with our SFA’s Equality and Diversity Board.
He said in the press today that players all over were ready to disrupt by leaving the pitch ‘with or without permission’.
This is just the start of a long and untidy slide till Uefa come up with a robust policy.
And that is not easy because there are so many questions.
Proof is not easy in many occasions.
When a player hides his mouth how can you ever certify what has said been said.
Racism can come from the terraces too?
I remember the embarrassing racism all round when Mark Walters played at Rangers.
I also have never liked or seen a place for the anti Irish racism that remains a reality in our game.
Maybe a year away will lead to its eradication.
Nothing surer than the gradual process that was underway pre-Covid will no longer be fast enough and Scottish football will have to deal with it soon enough.
Troubled times ahead but the desired outcome is the right thing for the game.
Introducing The GamTalk Scottish Cup
Following last week’s Sting in the Tale Ian Maxwell called me on Saturday morning and said he liked our idea of giving what is left of this year’s Scottish Cup media equity to a worthy charity.
He also said that he regretted having already given Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk no access to SFA funds to work together both in clubs and in schools for their joint benefit.
So we are seeing now a victory for common sense and working together for the common good.
“OK That was all bollocks”.
He didn’t get in touch.
The cup is still unsponsored.
All the potential media value is still being lost carelessly and needlessly.
It remains the (Naked) Scottish Cup even if one of Murdoch’s Times journalists still thought it remains sponsored by William Hill in his column this week.
No Fans At the May 22 Final is Not Acceptable
There are reasons for holding it at Hampden.
We’ve all heard that ‘Uefa reasons’ are why fans are not allowed.
(But that makes no sense. Surely they would welcome a dummy run).
It’s not too late to change guys.
Ally McCoist this week said there should be a rethink about fans being there and if that means playing it away from Hampden then that is what should happen.
Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees.
And when did Ally last get 100% support!
Three years ago Fir Park was said to be the best surface to play on in a three-way vote by PFA/SFA/Sports Labs.
In another survey Tynecastle was ranked as 8th best atmospheric ground in the UK and with Celtic Park ranked number 1 and best in the same survey.
I’d settle for any of these three grounds.
I’d settle for anywhere instead of an empty Hampden.
The SFA should work with Jason Leitch and his team to agree how to get fans into the final and if it can’t be at Hampden then there are alternatives.
We all saw the difference some fans make at the recent Israel Vs Scotland match in Tel Aviv.
There really is no excuse for no fans at GamTalk’s first Scottish FA Cup Final.
You Have to Pay For the Best Coaching
In Lord Tyre’s court this week listening to the David Grier compensation claim against Police Scotland and the Crown Prosecution Service it was my namesake, Andrew Smith’s turn to question D.C.I. Robertson.
Reporting is patchy to say the least and I wish there was more coverage in the mainstream media including Aunty Beeb.
One of my pals is following it all through a well-informed, subscription-based, interweb site that should have a greater audience.
One allegation was that D.C.I. Robertson, who in a couple of days of being questioned among other things denied the claim he had sung the Rangers variant of the USA Civil War ballad ‘Marching Through Georgia’.
The same site also reported that D.C.I. Robertson had also been pre-coached by Ledingham Chalmers ahead of his turn in the hot seat about what and what not to say.
I’ve been a witness in court and just said what happened.
Just think how much I saved.
This story keeps getting bigger and bigger.
I Know What I’d Do if I Was Ann Budge
First well done Ann and Hearts for a fast return to the top league.
You, Thistle and Stranraer should never have been ejected.
“Not your finest day Neil and SPFL Board and members”.
Anyway some months on thanks to my Jambo pals this week for flagging up some discussions in the various maroon tents about the forthcoming trophy presentation.
There have been suggestions made that Hearts players should accept their medals because in good faith they have competed and won.
But the club might and should leave the trophy on its pedestal.
A trophy they never wanted, don’t value, and one that should be asterisked as ‘unclaimed lost property’.
I’ve been talking about this for a few days with fans of many clubs.
The majority of fans would like to see Hearts make the point.
Just like Colin Smith (Tom Courtney) at the end of the 5 mile cross country race in Allan Sillitoe’s brutal ‘Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” film.
Go on Ms. Budge.
Make the point.
Be Colin Smith for us all.
As always feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images and will be removed on request of the owner.
*Paul Cave is the Australian man who when told the 100 plus reasons why tourists would never be able to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge addressed each and every issue and created the biggest tourist attraction down under. Google him.
Mr. Berra goes into hiding
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
The cupboards are not bare in the nursery…
In fact, they have a wee bear in them…
Dressed up by his maw for the Easter Parade, wee Robbie is refusing to come out…
Picture the scene…
Headie, teachers and the early years workers are all crowded round a table in the nursery room. They have a severe problem…
The Tiny Castle nursery has never really faced this before, but Mrs. Doncaster has always known that, as the head mistress of the local nursery where the Budge has her grandweans that the time is likely to come that she will have to face… The Budge…
Today looks like that day…
The reason wee Robbie is hiding in the cupboard happened the day before; and to be fair to the wee lad, there are plenty of professionals round the wee table who wish they could join him.
Wee Robbie, a favourite up yesterday of The Budge and her household, was minding his own wee business when one of The Budge grandweans, nobody is quite sure which one, made comments about how he was behaving in the nursery. Robbie had always been the blue eyed boy who had taken charge of things but The Budge’s grandwean had lost his wee shovel.
Robbie had been the last one seen using it.
Robbie was always a good wee boy. Diligent you might say. His best friend Christophe and he had looked after the sand pit, the water area and held court at times over who got the Lego bricks. He had status amongst the wee yins.
The bursary staff always marvelled how the rest of the weans in the nursery respected the pair of them so let it be. Christophe and Robbie were kind-hearted little guys who tried their best to be fair and even with their favours… or so they thought…
Yesterday a new flavour of Robbie came out when he and Christophe had a right royal falling out… The shovel was missing, and Robbie said he did not know where it had gone. Both of them had used it and they had been shoving loads of things around the nursery with it. In fact, it was often remarked at just how good they were at shovelling things. It was a key skill, and many metaphors were exchanged with knowing smiles. The wee shovel was a bright maroon colour, and therefore hard to miss as it had a beautifully carved heart on its shovel area that was the envy of most in the Tiny Castle Nursery.
The conversation table had centred around how Robbie and Christophe were such lovely wee boys. Promotion to the Big School had been secured early on and they both also looked after the nursery kids in the playground when the bigger primary weans were trying to bully them. They stood up for the wee yins and all was well, even when The Budge grandweans arrived.
Everyone had expected trouble.
But the Budge grandweans settled.
They always had the best of stuff and were always well turned out. They looked the best and it felt like they were the best. There was even mild surprise at how their manners matched their appearance. But there was always the threat… of… The Budge…
Christophe and Robbie had just kept doing what they were doing without too much interference from anyone.
And then came the shovel.
Christophe and Robbie were the best shovelers in the nursery. No matter what got flung at them they could shovel it. They loved the whole shovelling thing. Even with criticism they were able to shovel it and show a positive spin. When people thought they were beginning to be a bit arrogant with being 13 points ahead on the best pupil board, they still managed to show how they were humble and able to help. If it was pointed out that there was something not right in the middle of the nursery, they could point to the success up front where there was order and people manging to do all they were asked. If anyone suggested that there was no harmony in the lines outside, they could show how the behaviour of everyone in the playground was much more harmonious as they practised what to do for each big day – they were well drilled in showing how to deal with big events.
But yesterday was no ordinary day…
Robbie says that he believes that Christophe has taken the shovel and hidden it…
Christophe says it is all Robbie‘s fault…
The Budge grandweans are no happy…
Christophe is “aff” the day and Robbie has to face it all alone…
Sitting outside the Budge, is waiting for the return of her heart shaped shovel from the Tiny Castle Nursery…
The head mistress is near tears with fears that this could get ugly.
Today is the Easter Parade and apart from all the masks she has had to find, she has been in charge of the bonnets, of organising the cream teas for staff and visitors, of dealing with the local minister, Mr. Pressley, who wanted to give the weans a 45 minute lecture on the need for leadership whilst he banged on her table, and now her two best weans are having a barney.
They started fighting in the lines and Mrs. Robbie is on her way in to lift Robbie and take him to another nursery. She has had enough.
Yesterday Christophe and his mum announced they were leaving. The Budge got hold of the pair of them on the way out with a look that said, this is not over and both Christophe and his mum scuttled away like it was never going to end…
Just at that moment Mrs. Doncaster notices The Big Levein hanging about like a bad smell in the lobby waiting to get in. That is all she needs. He always knows when there is conflict to be sniffed out and now, he is talking to The Budge, Mrs. Doncaster feels trouble brewing…
The door of the cupboard opens and a wee angelic face peers round… Robbie looks ready to come out… In his hand is the shovel, now broken. Mrs. Doncaster knows that today is not going to go well as voices are raised from behind her – the minister, Mr. Pressley has arrived and is castigating The Budge for not supporting wee Robbie, him having met the mum and child in the playground – and now wee Christophe is confessing before his mum shall take him to a new nursery…
Mrs. Doncaster knows, as we all do… that…this is…
TO BE CONTINUED…
Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a certain Robbie or Christophe ever went to nursery school together, so this is clearly untrue though it could be suggested that Robbie Nielson and Christophe Berra are very adept at shovelling and hiding.
During the month, Steven Pressley along with Craig Levein bemoaned the lack of leadership at Hearts and given his passion for the club, out of work manager, Stephen Pressley, available for hire at any club willing to meet his demands, including any which may have passion and banging the table in their person specification, harangued the Hearts leadership for not backing the manager , who is beleaguered and currently rumoured to have his coat on a shaky nail, and likely to go up to the Premiership and be in danger of sliding back down again with the current squad. Christophe Berra, Hearts’ captain, legend, turncoat has announced he is leaving.
SFSA Malawi Fundraiser: Partick Thistle Memorabilia Auction
Calling all Partick Thistle fans and Scottish Football memorabilia collectors!
The SFSA have a large selection of Partick Thistle collectibles up for grabs to help the organisation raise funds for our next venture to Malawi to help further develop the football infrastructure in the African nation.
The SFSA have always been passionate about helping the game that we all love thrive and develop especially for those less fortunate than ourselves who share a common passion for football. The SFSA co-founder Paul Goodwin alongside former player, coach and friend of the organisation, Jimmy Bone have previously travelled to Malawi, providing kits and some training experience to the young boys and girls who were keen to learn. They also established a relationship with the Malawi FA and the Malawi Premier League who have asked for help further develop coaching facilities and educational programmes. You can read more about the previous journey here: https://scottishfsa.org/malawi/
Through this auction the SFSA hope to fund a return mission to Malawi to pick up where Paul and Jimmy left off, with plans to keep the historic Scotland-Malawi partnership connected through the love of football.
There are 64 different items to choose from, ranging from signed kits to programmes, postcards and prints and even a hospitality day at Firhill with Jimmy Bone himself! You can find all the listings via the link below. Please get involved and help the SFSA get back out to Malawi and continue to use football to make a huge difference to the lives in one of Africa’s poorest countries. If memorabilia is not your thing you will still be able to make a donation by following the link. A donation even of the cost of a pie and Bovril could make a huge difference to the boys and girls we hope to help.
Auction link: https://app.galabid.com/sfsamalawi/items
Andy’s Sting In The Tale (09/04/2021) “The Age of Uncertainties”
This week I’m going to talk about
- The SFSA’s 6th Birthday Today
- Uefa’s Sandy Ceferin Approving 8 Venues but Keeping 4 in Limbo for 2 More Weeks
- The SFA Seeking Future Government Fuel
- A big welcome to Fiona McIntyre
- Valencia Copying Aberdeen Uni 2nds But Then Bottling It
- The Session Court Cul de Sac Where a “Big Boy Did it But Ran Away”
Six SFSA Years On
“Now we are six
Still growin’ and cleverer
But wi’ no Fans Alliance
Our game’s stuck foreverer”.
(with apologies to AA Milne).
It’s no big deal but six short years ago Paul Goodwin, Simon Barrow and ex first minister Henry McLeish decided our game needed insight and expertise from outside the traditional Hampden structures, power brokers and invited committees.
There was at the time an existing fans group in Scotland but it was and still is an in-house organisation funded and controlled by the football authorities. Paul, Henry and Simon knew a strong, independent fans alliance was urgently required to shake the game out of its Victorian ways.
We have known from day one and valued the fact that fans will never agree about everything but we can and do come to a consensus over issues, especially the big ones.
The Scottish Football Supporters Association is simply here to represent all fans and the good of the game.
It’s not been an easy journey.
After 148 years of football running itself, it has walls as thick as Borders keeps, deep seated behind-closed-doors traditions and rituals that don’t invite or encourage change.
6 years on SFSA now we’re heading for circa 80,000 souls, growing every week, with members from across all clubs and leagues. We’re united in a love of our teams and the game itself.
We know from your feedback that the representation, news and insight we share from far and wide is appreciated. It’s the kind of stuff we don’t always see in the sports pages.
SFSA are wee and run by volunteers and advisers who give freely of their time and expertise because they want to give something back to the game.
The reality is football simply cannot run itself, by itself, for itself because self-interest rather than common good prevails every time.
Scottish Football 2021 remains caught in its very own Groundhog Day of diminishing returns.
Those running our game are doing so in straitjackets of the game’s own making.
The 19th century business model of clubs running football is breaking down elsewhere too.
South of the border the supporter’s movement “The Beautiful Game” has been backed by a growing band of heavyweight fans and is making remarkable progress.
They have made it political.
While no two countries are the same, in England the major issue is the sheer gap between the Big 6 and the rest. The FA’s Big Six clubs are continually looking for a bigger share of the cake and threatening the survival of the game itself.
Up here there are parallels yet somehow we stumble and bumble along and blocking change because we always have.
There are good people working in and across Scottish football but our game needs a sustainable multi-faceted structure based on common good.
Easy to say I hear you think.
The reality is financial pressures and short-termism preclude our clubs from moving away from the current model even though they can see it is broken.
Without external influence we will remain stuck.
The SFA to be fair have seen this coming for many years and tried and failed at least three times.
They commissioned Ernie Walker’s Think Tank (never published), and McLeish Reports 1 and 2 before ignoring most of what they’d paid for.
Now in the run up to the Scottish elections in May the SFA have surprised us all.
On Tuesday they press-released that they had sent a request to all political parties that the next government should work in a “partnership approach” with the SFA.
Below I have copied their summary and I discuss it at length.
But first some good news for us all.
Sandy Ceferin Backs Hampden and 7 Other Venues
The status before today was that Uefa had piled pressure on all 12 Euros venues to allow 30 – 40% of capacity.
That level covers their operational costs.
The pressure was all about money and Sandy has got a result so far.
Today 8 venues got his “thumbs up”.
Maybe even a little overoptimism but time will tell.
St Petersburg confirmed 50% capacity crowds with a planned ‘increase’ review at the end of the month.
Baku will allow 50% and travelling fans with Covid test results.
Bucharest is aiming for 100%.
Amsterdam, Copenhagen Bucharest and Glasgow confirm 25- 33% ish.
London confirms 25% for group matches and hopes for more for the semis and final.
Munich, Rome, Bilbao and Dublin have been told to provide additional information by April 19.th
I don’t know what that means and Sandy hasn’t told us.
I do know that so far nobody has asked the virus to behave and stop mutating.
As JK Galbraith would have said.
“At this moment there are no certainties and anyone who thinks there are may be very surprised indeed”.
I hope we have fans at games but the only certainty is nothing can be guaranteed.
The Uefa plan for deciding who gets to use their tickets and see the matches was also announced. Uefa will first work out how many of the existing tickets have been kept by the initial purchasers after travel restrictions become clearer and to then see if additional ballots are needed to sell any spare capacities.
My son has not yet heard about his tickets for both Scotland’s home games, bought and paid for long before we even knew we had qualified.
In early May we are told fan allocations for late qualifiers Hungary, North Macedonia, Scotland and Slovakia will become available too so there may be a public sale of sorts.
It’s all in the lap of the mutation gods.
No sorry that is better translated as
Government Money Wanted By The SFA
(In case you haven’t seen it I have lifted this next 14 line section from the SFA web site. It’s worth a read).
Scottish FA – Vision For The Future
The next Scottish Government has an opportunity to fuel football’s unique ability to inspire the nation.
We strive to make the national sport open to more people, more often, and at less cost.
We want to reinforce football’s ability to improve lives, connect communities; be a hub for innovation and a champion of sustainability and green technology.
Football delivers more than £1bn of Social Return on Investment and, with unparalleled cultural significance and reach, can become a key enabling partner leveraging Scotland’s image and aspirations regionally, nationally and internationally.
We therefore ask the next Scottish Government to commit to a partnership approach with the Scottish FA to:
Use The Power Of Football To Inspire A Healthier Scotland
Football reaches millions across Scotland in a variety of ways.
The Scottish FA proposes to offer the power and influence of the national game to be at the forefront of a health and wellbeing revolution.
This partnership should extend across all cabinet portfolios and include two-way communication and activation to promote and improve equality and education in all aspects of health and wellbeing.
Football For All, And For Free
Remove the cost barrier and allow our children to enjoy the many benefits of playing football by creating a free football voucher scheme.
Hampden Park – The Home Of Scottish Football; A Hub For Excellence
Support an improvement and modernisation programme for Hampden to become an elite sporting campus and a centre for learning excellence, community benefit, and technological advancement.
I’ve read this confusing ‘manifesto’ many times.
I agree football can and should indeed be a power for good in the health of the nation.
And I am aware that the SFA who over the years have been losing their own political fight with the SPFL are right to seek help from outside.
Some of it though I find confusing and also bare-faced arrogant so please bear with me.
The opening sentence “The next Scottish Government has an opportunity to fuel football’s unique ability to inspire the nation” is a bizarre intro.
It reads to me that the SFA are challenging the government to fund their new challenge.
Because the SFA then quantifies what this ‘fuel’ brings to the party i.e. “Football delivers more than £1bn, unparalleled cultural significance and reach, – a key enabling partner”.
So in SFA Speak– “Scottish Government – you’d better commit to and pay for a partnership approach with the Scottish FA”.
The words don’t read or hang together well and look like they were written by a committee.
In fact more than that, they come across as conceited and quite self-congratulatory from an organisation that many think, or rather know, is out of touch.
Looking at the detail the idea of free football and a football voucher scheme is great.
It is certainly an improvement on the current SFA imposed fee of £9 per match per team for all SFA authorised kids matches.
The SFA currently charges kids teams for the right to play SFA endorsed football.
Many of us have worked in commercial organisations and understand how business is run.
Football is different to most other businesses.
When football talks about investment it means “give us some money for us to spend. But don’t ask for transparency or to meet us half-way like normal partnerships”.
Here is a wee comparison.
Look up committee work in the Scottish Government.
You’ll find pages and pages of notes about who was there, who said what etc.
You can come along to parliament in normal times or watch it on TV.
It is open and recorded and welcoming.
Then try looking up records of SFA board meetings or committee records or anything other than press releases.
Try asking for an observer ticket to a board meeting.
You won’t find much to read.
You won’t be welcomed to observe either.
Can you imagine the Scottish Government working in a similar way as partners?
The SFA and SPFL can’t help themselves.
It’s in their DNA.
Football in Scotland has an endemic group-behavioural problem.
It uses secrecy as a means of power from within and this immediately creates huge issues for any much-needed partnership.
And please consider the following.
The Scottish Football Association was 148 years old on March 13th.
Everything it has asked in this quite bizarre manifesto has been within its own power over each and every one of those 148 years.
Why did none of it happen before?
Why ask for this kind of help now?
Why no acknowledgement that for any successful partnership that football would have to change radically?
I’ve spoken at length with people watching this with interest.
One pal, a PR veteran, said to me “Andy I’m confused. A strange request, badly written, quasi political nonsense”.
My business school professor pal said, “This could have been a smart move. It started off as a macro discussion on the good of the game and ends up like a plea to fund a free football voucher scheme. That sounds like a commercial requirement and a need for a sponsor not a strategic step from a plugged-in potential partner. The government don’t trust them now. Why should that change? “Nicola has real demands on her budgets. She has no cash to burn. And if she had, football has been profligate with every penny it has ever been given so she would be mad to get involved”.
A Political Solution is the Only Way
The SFSA believe football needs political help form outside to bring the changes it needs.
Henry McLeish has long said that control of the game has to be independent of the clubs and most would agree.
In our various, recent, Zoom calls we, and our members, have already spoken with the heads of most parties and will continue again after the elections.
You’ll find a report from each call we’ve had on our web site too.
(And you are welcome to join in the future).
They all get the fact that football, in its wee self important and self interest bubble, has ignored the fans and the push for common good for too long.
“What a missed opportunity from those on the 6th floor”.
Fiona McIntyre – Good News For Our Women’s Game
This week Fiona, as new Head of Girl’s and Women’s Football was featured in an in-house 11 minute video discussing her first couple of weeks in post and plans for the future.
Some other stuff was released too like how Fifa’s £350K Covid Relief Fund will be spent and the imminent launch of a new SFA Corporate plan.
Everyone I’ve spoken to says her appointment is a positive move and her experience of running the SWF at Hampden will be invaluable.
She is well liked.
Fiona said on the video release that she will be driving a strategy for the girls’ and women’s game and will be part of the team appointing a new manager to replace Shelley Kerr soon.
Quite why this was all done in house and scripted rather than with outside journalists asking real questions and getting real answers I’m not sure.
I know some people believe she is the right person but fear she will have to fight to get ‘them who make decisions’ to believe in and fund our women’s and girls’ game.
Good luck Fiona from the SFSA.
No Fans at the Cup Final
Jason had already said the cup final could be used as a Euros test event with fans allowed.
He didn’t say how many but his optimism was premature.
In the press it says the ground is officially Uefa’s from May 14 onwards with the Scottish Cup on May 22 just a one-day hand-back.
That doesn’t make it true.
I would have thought it would have made sense to have 12,000 there just like Nicola’s approved plan for 23 days later.
A Lost Opportunity
The Scottish Cup 2020 – 2021 has no sponsor.
You probably noticed.
This is not a criticism of the current SFA commercial people even though it could and probably should be.
It is however a criticism of Rod, Ian and the rest of the board for myopia regarding this year’s competition.
When no sponsor was confirmed they had options – i.e. run the cup with no sponsor like they have or think outside the box.
When Nathan Evans made the draw the advertising boards behind him carried “Give for Grassroots” and “Scottish Football Partnership Trust” as well as Specsavers logos.
Maybe that was as far outside the box they could think?
I don’t know how many media airings the entity that is “The Scottish Cup” has had so far or will get in the next few weeks.
£Millions worth of media value and all lost into the ether like empty seats on last Saturday’s trains.
What a bloody waste guys!
Why did the SFA not take one of these two easy options?
1 Pick a Mental health charity and give a one year sponsorship for free?
2 Pick a gambling help charity like Gamtalk?
Both could have been done in conjunction with the Scottish government.
We’re only at the 4th round.
Why not do something positive now Rod, Ian et al?
It is not too late.
It would make a cracking story too.
“Cast your bread on the water,” and all that.
Lord Tyre’s Court of Se££ion
The David Grier compensation claim against Police Scotland and the Crown Prosecution Service continues this week and into next.
The strangest quote so far was from Phillip Duffy of Duff and Phelps who said he was giving a witness statement when Detective Chief Inspector Jim Robertson heading up the Police Scotland team told him that the police case was based on the BBC Panorama special “The men who sold the jerseys”.
This is the same DCI Robertson is also allegedly said to be the singer of at least two well known Rangers ditties to allegedly intimidate his witnesses.
I don’t know if he is called to this three week get together. Maybe he’ll sing the songs if he does.
Today James Mulholland who was Lord Advocate (i.e. boss and responsible) at the time said, “Jim Keegan was appointed in October 2014. I didn’t have day to day involvement but was available”.
This happens to be contradictory to Jame’s Wolffe QC saying though lawyers that Mulholland’s hands were “on the tiller” throughout.
So either a big boy did it and ran away or we have a few interesting sessions to come.
That’s why we need judges.
Why is this genuine and total “balls up” and growing liability not being discussed anywhere in the build up to our election?
I can think of £80M plus reasons why it should be.
Valencia Take Inspiration From Aberdeen Uni 2nd XI
On April 20th 2019 the Uni 2nds were playing Kincorth at Tullos and walked off en masse.
“We abandoned the game after an extremely offensive racial slur towards a Uni player. Almost every Uni player heard the abuse yet the referee did not. We have a zero tolerance policy”.
A kind of anarchy that I agree with and it won the club a sportsman’s award.
Last weekend Mouctar Diakhary of Valencia said he was abused racially by Juan Cala of Cadiz.
Valencia walked off the park en masse.
Then having been told they would forfeit 3 points in a game when the score was 1-1 they came back on the field without Mouctar but with a substitute Hugo Guillamon.
With echoes of the recent Rangers vs. Slavia Prague incident and the very poor Uefa response so far, football has to agree a policy because this will happen again before it stops.
I’m not holding my breath that it will come soon or will make any sense.
As always feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images and will be removed on request of the owner.
Third March Fan’s Meeting, with Anas Sarwar (Summary)
On Wednesday the 31st of March, the SFSA held its sixth Fans Zoom Session with special guest Anas Sarwar. Anas, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, was keen to hear the thoughts of fans on a number of important issues that face our game as well as the wider social impact that football has on Scottish society and communities
Anas recognised the importance of football and sport in general within local communities, particularly clubs at grassroots level which play an integral role of maintaining the health and wellbeing of the country. Community clubs have been crucial during the pandemic, offering support and assistance those who are vulnerable in the local community.
Additionally, Anas recognises the issues of governance within Scottish football and the poor relationship between the football authorities and fans which needs to improve for the benefit of the wider game. Fans bring in the highest percentage of revenue for their clubs and so this should be acknowledged and respected by the football authorities.
We would like to thank Anas and all guests who were on the call who provided a thorough and interesting, wide-ranging discussion.
A key points summary can be found below:
- A consensus that fans should be allowed into Hampden Park in some capacity for the Euros this summer. A number of reasons supported this such as:
- The economic benefits that this will bring.
- The impact that Covid-19 has had on clubs of all sizes but particularly smaller clubs who are dependent on revenue generated through ticket sales.
- A discussion about the announcement of the early finalising of the Lowland and Highland league and the play offs into League 2. There was a consensus that clubs should have a fair opportunity to have access to resources that come with SPFL status.
- A brief overview of the events unfolding in England in relation to the “Our Beautiful Game” campaign.
- A recognition there is a “governance gap” and disconnect between those at the top who run our game and the fans. The game is only as good as the fans as they are at the heart of Scottish Football in comparison to the English top divisions where TV revenue plays a much larger role.
- There was much support for a review of the governance structure of our game and the need for an action plan post covid which has the best interest of the whole game at its core.
- Government shouldn’t be shy of pushing reform of Scottish game should they fail to implement change themselves.
- A discussion on the level of gambling in football and the negative impact it has on young people, particularly during the pandemic where it is arguably easier to become addicted to gambling through ease of access. There was also anecdotal evidence of this from SFSA partner Gamtalk U.K. which highlighted the very real issue of gambling among young people.
- A need for governing bodies to show a clear plan of action as we leave lockdown and restrictions are eased to allow clarity and confidence among the population.
- Talks on the idea of “covid passports” or a system to show who has been vaccinated, to allow for society to continue and vaccines are rolled out. Israel’s “green card” system was one example which allows those with both doses of the vaccine to return to some normality. A notable point was that it was more supported for international travel, etcetera, and shouldn’t be applied for everyday activities such as going to a pub or restaurant.
- This may be required to allow fans back into stadia for the Euros.
- The current planning out of lockdown and the pandemic is reactive rather than proactive and this is limiting confidence and certainty for clubs and fans.
- Discussion on the cross-faith working group that is in direct communication with the Scottish government which has produced a roadmap for its institutions for a return to normal services. Their united effort forced government to discussions and is something that we as a fans organisation should look to replicate to generate discussion and plans for a return to watching live sport.
- The large impact that the pandemic has had on mental health, particularly on young people with sports clubs being shut down. Anas recognised the importance of addressing this issue and the need to improve mental health services as move out of the pandemic.
- A need to support and encourage young people to participate in spots and cultural activities during the summer months to boost confidence and improve health and wellbeing so they are better prepared for the next school term, with improved confidence which will help in learning.
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
The lower leagues can sometimes be an afterthought.
As grassroots football is resuming across the country, the changes that have been made to try and democratise the leagues and bring back in the types of fertile ground that sees the Ashfield’s, the Pollok’s and the Brora Rangers mentioned can be hard to find in the daily pages of our sporting media outlets.
The fact is that they do not sell papers or heighten the click bait.
What they do, is support the progress of players from the sofa to the pitch. They work tirelessly in the community at making sure that we have a product with depth. For every Andy Robertson, able to show progress from Queen’s Park to European Champion, there are thousands of other players who get an opportunity with a small time team, take it and progress to the level they wish. Parading their wares on a fortnightly basis to smaller crowds their support of the game is the life blood of football. For the fan standing in the cold October rain with the hope they can see their team, this year, manage a half decent season, they dine out on cup runs and hope to progress to the league above; for some of us, there is always a league above!
In many communities all over Scotland there are thousands who support Barcelona as their second team whilst their local team has their true heart.
And so recently the announcement came that the Lower League champs are Kelty Hearts and the Highland champions are Brora Rangers. Their season was 3 games long.
They go head to head against each other for the opportunity to play the lowest placed team at the foot of League Two.
Or do they?
Both Highland and Lowland Leagues, well aware that the validity of the pyramid system was at stake, took the selfless decision to vote through their representatives as winners of a hardly even begun league.
There was no announcement, however, from the SPFL, that the winner of this two leg playoff would get to meet the lowest placed SPFL team in the final. You are left wondering if this is just a ploy rather than a realistic attempt to keep the pyramid structure relevant.
Aside from a run in the Scottish Cup – ironically, Kelty Hearts’ conquerors were drawn against Brora Rangers in the next round of the cup and dismissed the Highland League side to progress – neither side shall play a league game before the play off. Then they may or they may not play Brechin City or Albion Rovers or Cowdenbeath or Annan Athletic or none of them.
The League Two season has resumed. If there and is no opportunity for either Kelty hearts nor Brora Rangers to pit themselves against a League Two side, then along with no trophy, there is little glory and with no fans for the winner of the two league play off, you have to ask the point.
At present they are even unable to fully train!
It would be another farcical element in an already strange couple of years if this semi-final, did not lead to a final. I have great sympathy for the fans of Brechin City whose fall from the Championship to the foot of the SPFL is tragic, but if we truly believe that this type of grassroots football is valuable we need to value it properly and not with token gestures which are going to devalue the supporter who supports their local team. I cannot see much in the diaries of the lower leagues for the weekends after the second leg of the play off. Perhaps the SPFL should fill it in now with confirmation of the final match being actually played. Why not even make it Hampden – after all, they don’t need a crowd!
Howe do you get a job?
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
“Aye but how?”
Picture the scene…
Someone has arrived at the terminus for the Bournemouth to Glasgow bus. He has met with the Glaswegian driver in charge. He is about begin his return journey back “up the road.” The bus driver is trying to get his head round what the passenger is trying to say to him.
In Glasgow, how is meant as what, but here he has a man who doesn’t seem to understand that.
At the other side of the screen, that someone, Mr. Howe, is getting increasingly confused. After all, he thinks, he is used to dealing with people where English is their second language, how difficult can it be up north? But he cannot get his head round why it is that he is bamboozled by a man who looks like English is at least one of his languages.
Behind him, the wee guy, who claims he was sent by his future employers, and who claims he has been sent to coach him, on the coach, is waiting his turn to appear. He has told Mr. Howe that he may not be the brightest, hence they wanted to keep things simple by coaching on the coach. But wee guy can see where this is going…
Finally, he tries to get between Mr. Howe and the screen to take over but Mr. Howe is not one to shirk a challenge.
Mr. Howe decides to try again. “Howe is my name.” This puzzles the bus driver. Why would he want to know his name? He looks puzzled.
Mr. Howe decides he needs to try and make it clearer. He starts to speak slowly. He thought this worked really well with all the foreigners he worked with. “My… name…. is… Mr…. Howe…”
Mr. Howe thinks he has found a breakthrough.
The bus driver looks even more puzzled. He asks again, “How?”
Mr. Howe nods, thinking that this might help things. The driver, realising that his question is unlikely to be answered realises that there is someone behind him. The man behind catches his eye and manages to say, “Aw right pal? Ah’m wi the big man here.” It is a highly convincing performance and the grey beard and eyes with which you should never argue are making their presence felt.
Mr. Howe suddenly realises that this must be the Gaelic that people had warned him about as he steps to one side and his advisor, the one there to coach on the coach manages to make contact properly with the driver. The driver heaves a big sigh and says, “Got ye! Ah wis tryin tae get ma heid roun why the big yin wanted twa tickets when ah could oanly see yin o ye!”
The driver prints out two tickets. Mr. Howe takes them and walks onto the bus to find a seat. The wee guy looks at the bus driver and says, “Sorry, ah’ve been asked tae take him up the road and tae be honest ah’m no lookin forward tae it.” The bus driver sympathises, “Gonnae be a lang journey wee man.”
The wee man nods. He then looks to see that Mr. Howe has taken his seat right at the back, like a kid on a school bus. He walks up the bus and sits right next to him.
Trying to work out how to start a conversation the wee man eventually stumped up with, “So, yer ehm reference was good.” Mr. Howe smiles. The wee man continues. “I didn’t realise you knew Mr. Sutton.” Mr. Howe smiles again.
The gap in silence was all that the wee man was getting, so he tried to go further. “Mr. Sutton was quite the statesman in his reference.” Mr. Howe looks puzzled. “Churchillian.” Explains the wee man. His beard twinkling in the morning sun as they are now well on in the journey. The motorway is passing them by, and it won’t be long before they have their first scheduled stop.
Mr. Howe smiles once more. But there is something not right. He starts to wonder why he is taking the bus. Up until now he had never given it much thought. When the wee guy turned up at his house with two tickets, he just thought it was to do with the COVID thing. He knew there were different rules in Scotland, maybe this was one of them.
“I mean,” continues the wee man. Mr. Howe breaks his reverie. “He did say he was concerned.” Mr. Howe frowns at this. Ho too, now has concerns. There is something not right about this whole thing
“He talked about how you might have all the tools, but you have been out of a job for a while. Absolutely baffling.”
Mr. Howe frowns again and starts to have a rethink.
“But you are hungry. I mean really hungry. You are young. Organised and I am sure you can handle yourself.”
Mr. Howe wonders where this is going.
“You will need all of that. Big job, this. I mean not one that you cannot handle but it is huge. As in mega huge. Total different kettle of fish to what you are used to and intense pressure. As in intense, intense pressure.”
Doubt has begun to creep into Mr. Howe and his singular, organised mind.
“You do know, don’t you, that the other guys will still be there. I mean no clean sweep. But you have the tools. According to Mr. Sutton, you have. Don’t you?”
Now Mr. Howe is beginning to feel that creeping doubt become more and more prevalent. He is beginning to feel fear, he wonders if his companion can feel his fear.
The stuttering conversation has now managed to get them to the first stop and whilst the wee man is in getting his cappuccino to go, Mr. Howe is on the phone in the car park. The thirty minute break at the service station, with very few people there makes it all the more obvious when a car draws into the car park and Mr. Howe gets into it.
Getting back on the bus, the bus driver, smiles at the wee man who drops his Scots accent and returns to his more familiar brogue. “All right, straight on up the road, there big man.”
The driver, incredulous that as he is the secretary of the Keano Travel Bus, would be asked by the very man to help him out replies, “Sure thing Mr. Keane, sure thing.”
Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a certain Mr. Keane has ever been on a bus, so this is clearly untrue though a certain Chris Sutton did utter some of these words in a verbal joust with Ally McCoist this week.
During the week, Chris Sutton heralded Eddie Howe as THE man to take Celtic forward in a speech that left Ally McCoist making fun at his rabble rousing and call to arms as described it as Churchillian!
Andy’s Sting In The Tale (02/04/2021) “On The Wembulee Trail”
Good news today about the Tartan Army being allowed into Wembulee in just 77 days.
Sandy Ceferin at Uefa told me this morning that he saw no reason why the usual Uefa quotient of 16% of tickets to away fans would be changed.
He also asked me to confirm that his Euros team has no intention of interfering in the detail being discussed between the 12 host nation governments and their country FAs.
He just needs 30% capacity in grounds, as a minimum, guaranteed for each and every match.
That’s for starters because in reality his Uefa want and need more.
Populism Versus Science
April 7th is Sandy’s big date and is as close as next Wednesday. There is a big circle in red on his Colin Baxter wall calendar below the picture of the Trotternish Ridge in Skye.
This Uefa imposed deadline is when the 12 Euros venues and their governments have to guarantee that fans will be present at the 4 games most stadia including Hampden will host, (7 at Wembley including both semis and the final).
With Europe right now in deepening and endless Covid Chaos with little certainty let’s compare our three closest venues and their politicians: Boris, Nicola, and Micheal Martin, Taoiseach over the North Channel and down a bit.
Boris in his populist corner has already guaranteed that fans will be present in his England.
He is so confident that he has also offered to host the whole tournament.
Nicola I have been told is in the ‘cautious but hopeful camp’ and Michael Martin, in a land of far fewer current vaccinations, is in a more difficult place.
There are rumours that Euros at Hampden will sneak Sandy’s approval but that Dublin is in trouble and under severe pressure.
“All because Uefa see profit as more fundamental than crowd health or safety”.
Currently Wembley’s opening gambit and guarantee is just 10,000 fans under current protocols and plans.
But Uefa need at least 27,000 bums on seats for their numbers to work.
So surprise, surprise there are already plans underway to immediately increase the ‘protocol-led’ capacity to 20,000 and then up a bit more too.
And as optimism (over-optimism?) grows in England the team at the FA is now saying that by June 21 the gate could be lifted to circa 50,000.
That kind of guarantee makes Sandy Ceferin and his team happy bunnies especially the accountants.
So right now all you can do is guess how many Wembulee briefs will actually be heading up north.
Officially we get 16% of whatever the agreed capacity will be so for now 1,600 is a starter for 10 but more seem likely.
The stark reality is nobody knows how many of the 12 hosts are overpromising like Boris and will have to adjust or how many venues will be crowd-less or even have to be dropped at the 11th hour.
Heading Our Way – The Politics of QATAR 2022
Awarding the tournament, changing it from the unplayable summer heat to winter, ignoring how the venues are being constructed and other things like normal social inclusiveness are prime examples of Fifa, power, egos and corruption at its worst.
Football has now broken out with the qualifiers for Qatar well underway.
Sadly Scottish points have been dropped and listening to the media after we finally won I kept hearing how we hammered the Faroes, were now second in our group and that all was going well and to plan.
As a half-full personality I really get the positive approach and the table shows we are indeed second in our group.
However we were fortunate against Austria, Israel deserved their point against us and we did win to well against the Faroes with Tierney, McGinn and others outstanding.
No doubt too that we are getting better and progress is being made under Stevie.
But the Faroes have the same population as Kirkcaldy.
We have also now conceded that our only option to qualify will be the play offs and come second to Denmark who top our group and took apart a fine Austrian side.
Not an easy route.
In the meantime did you know that in the decade since FIFA somehow ‘contrived’ to award Qatar the World Cup an estimated 7000 migrant workers have died on construction projects there including the world cup sites.
The Qatar official figures currently say there have been only 3 work-related deaths and 35 non–work related (whatever that means), attributable to their World cup Construction sites.
Nobody believes these official figures even at Fifa.
The reality is workers in Qatar get treated disgracefully and health, safety and human rights just don’t exist.
Fifa has been compromised since the award decision and the reality is players will be playing in stadia built by workers under unacceptable standards.
And Fifa has been posted missing all along.
But the football family cares and can do something about it.
Anger is growing.
Last week the German, Norwegian, Dutch and Danish came out publicly against how Qatar treats its imported workers.
Mattjis de Ligt, Juventus young Dutch international centre-back called for action from other countries and players unions to discuss how to work together saying. “We cannot remain indifferent and do nothing”.
Scotland is not even on the bus yet.
Some of us also remember Stewart Regan backtracking in 2015 after the SFA had instigated “The Qatar Airways Cup” and announced plans for more links.
Fritz Keller the German FA President was quoted saying “It is good when our national team commits to the values of our liberal democracy. You don’t play with human rights. They are non-negotiable and universally applicable”.
Maybe Maxie or Rod said something too that wasn’t reported.
No, maybe not.
That was the headline for a nice wee April fool from Methil yesterday. @eastFifeFC
“East Fife are delighted to announce, that starting from next season (2021/22), East Fife U20s will be rebranded to East Fife FC-Colts. The EF Colts will start next season straight into an expanded @spfl league 2.
A few weeks ago we had all wondered why the unpopular “Colts teams proposal” had suddenly reappeared on to the agenda in the Scottish game and was being briefed to and discussed across the media.
You could tell it was being coordinated.
I was sent an invite and took part in a poll by the SFA and SPFL in-house fans group SDS – I’d guess it is because the SFA or SPFL or both are trying to finagle a positive fan reaction to the colts idea to try to help finesse such an unpopular move through.
If you’ve been away (if only) there are imminent plans to put Rangers and Celtic Colts straight into the SPFL leagues proper with a plan to somehow make it right with a vote by the member clubs in SPFL 1 and 2.
The colts idea comes augmented with money promised for 5 years to the bottom 2 SPFL divisions. In addition no relegation options are allegedly being put in place for Brechin (or whoever ends up bottom) plus (possibly) immediate entry to the leagues for champions of both the Highland and Lowland Leagues.
So bribes aplenty for all in the lower leagues driven it seems by the current ‘deemed to have failed’ under 20-league project, the lack of worthwhile reserve football and the sheer power of our dominant clubs.
Wary of another sixth floor stitch up we immediately undertook a survey and found Scottish fans are not in favour of the proposal.
We dug further into our 4500 responses and not surprisingly it was plain that the supporters of the two Glasgow clubs pushing for the change were more likely to be pro and fans from the other 40 clubs against.
Self interest drives the football bus in Scotland.
So What Has This to Do With Brora and Kelty?
This week the Highland League declared Brora champions this season despite having played only 3 games in a truncated year where Fort William had their best season ever only losing 1 game.
OK they only played one game!
Simultaneously and as if choreographed in sequence the Lowland League decided to announce Kelty Hearts as champions.
Both leagues were called on a Points Per Game (PPG) basis one by the management committee and one by a 9 – 3 vote.
Both clubs were also Champions last year.
Both were shafted royally too when the SPFL decided in 2020 not to honour the pyramid agreements and the SFA didn’t fight the decision on behalf of its members who lost out.
As it stands Brora and Kelty are ready, waiting and more than willing to get involved in a play off, first against each other and then with the winner to play Brechin or whoever is bottom at the end of the season for a place in the SPFL 2.
There is no publicly available record of how Neil Doncaster and the SPFL legally ever managed and contrived the dropping of the pyramid last year.
At the time I remember it was much discussed but not known for sure if having a representative on both the SPFL Board and the SFA Professional Game Board was of any advantage to Brechin City. They were bottom club in 2020 and in danger of being relegated but had that crucial link at the very top.
Again Brechin are propping up our leagues right now so we currently have the same three protagonists as a year ago.
The pertinent rule that was maligned/ignored last year was-
(c) Any amendment to these Pyramid Play Off Rules must be agreed by each of the Scottish FA, SPFL, SHFL and SLFL prior to it becoming effective.
That didn’t happen.
That was and is a disgrace.
This year the Highland and Lowland Leagues in Queen’s Gambit style have made their move early.
Their clubs are ready to get the process moving.
It will be interesting now to see what machinations are afoot.
Machination 1- It Must Be Time to Expand the Bottom League?
Imagine a zoom call between people at the very, very top of the SPFL and the SFA.
Here is the likely 2 minute thinking process for the plan that brought the Colts teams proposals bubbling back to life two weeks ago.
The Chair says
“Good meeting. Just a wee final point guys.
Peter and Stewart want the Colts deal done for next year.
Let’s make it look seamless and planned”.
(The group have all discussed this informally and more or less know what they have to do.)
The obvious solution is to increase SPFL 2 from 10 to 12, 14 or even 16 and make it look like new thinking?
That makes sense and saves Brechin.
It also allows room for both Brora and Kelty, plus two colts sides into a new 14-team league?
We could even make it 16 if more colts sides come forward. That would make it look more planned”.
“That works for me I like ‘everybody wins’ scenarios like this?
Let’s get the fans behind it and sell it hard.
Let’s bring in SDS to make it look like a fans idea all along”.
Far from showing the genius and cunning of those running our sport it fails on many counts.
It doesn’t seem very fair to clubs or fans bursting to get into the 4th level from the 5th or their fans.
It doesn’t help ex-fourth level members like East Stirling or Berwick trying to get back.
It doesn’t bring real reform across our leagues. (And that is needed but we have 4 leagues and an integrated system to look at)
It is a knee jerk reaction to pressure from the top rather than an answer to our much needed elite youth strategy and plan.
It does nothing to unify and strengthen the grass roots up and through the pyramid.
And what if Aberdeen or East Fife Colts want to emulate Celtic and Rangers and gain entry next year?
Where do they start?
Two Interesting Things From Our Zoom With Anas Sarwar
Thanks to all who joined us and took part.
During a lively discussion with the new Scottish Labour leader this week many topics were raised and covered but two are worth sharing for now.
“What can football learn from Faith Groups”?
“How Gamtalk can work in our clubs”.
Faith Groups won the right to worship during a pandemic in future with protocols in place.
They had to go to court.
They did and won.
Football could have and should have done the same.
Months ago like we asked them to.
Our administrators and their secretive JRG group have let all the fans down.
1. What is the difference between protocoled church attendance and protocoled Football fans in the open air enjoying sport?
A. Nothing much.
In fact football is outside and less risky than churches and supermarkets.
Paul Pettigrew got wooed, and spat out, six figures in pound notes poorer, by a hi-tec algorithm-driven gambling industry.
He was feted one week when spending and barred the next when burst.
He has now started an education process to stop youngsters like him being recruited, processed and destroyed by the gambling industry.
Football has an uneasy relationship with betting. We are happy to take its marketing budgets but doing little to prevent it recruiting football fans and people and it is widespread though our game.
Q How many Clubs are working with Gamtalk to help with an endemic gambling pandemic that is both in and through clubs right now?
A. Only 3.
Q. How many should be working with Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk?
A. All of them.
We live in a strange world.
This week Denise Coates CEO of Bet 365 was reported as earning £469M as her wages and dividend for 2020 – 2021.
Paul Pettigrew is one of many victims of an industry that has made Denise Coates and others rich. He is not unique. There are victims throughout our game. A game that has an over reliance on income streams and practices that allow our youngsters to be cynically targeted and damaged.
Paul is fine. He got his act together, set up Gamtalk and even asked the SFA for financial help to spread the word through member clubs. He was politely refused (aka GTF).
The irony is Paul and others like him are needed by our game even if those at the top can’t see it.
The same game where if Denise Coates of Bet 365 picked up the phone to speak Neil or Maxie or their commercial people she would be an instant VIP listened to and acted on.
As always feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images and will be removed on request of the owner.
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
Sometimes I think that there are people who don’t quite get it. Sometimes I just wonder at their continued inability to listen or comprehend.
The lower leagues don’t want Colt Teams. Having them in the cup competitions may well allow the Colts to test themselves against the lower leagues, play against men rather than boys at the same level, put themselves in the shop window in very real games that allow us to see just how good the development phase of their career has been and make us all aware of the future.
Or does it?
By the time that the Colt team makes a stance in the cup, are the players who are going to make the grade not already in the first team? Are they not already training with the first team? Are they likely to get a chance to play for any other team apart from a lower league team? Is this just about throwing the ones you are going to let go at the end of the season a chance to show off their wares to future employers rather than be about their own development? Surely making it a condition of membership of the league that all of your Colt Teams play in domestic leagues and competitions to improve everyone’s lot what it all should be about? If it was about development, then surely a beefed up domestic reserve league would do that?
You know. Like in the old days. When men were men and boys were playing against them every week until a first team chance came at their own club and they got given that chance. Or are we saying that these players in the lower leagues who have many a year under their belt are the equivalent in boxing of journeymen who have more losses than wins and are just there to teach the new Kieran Tierney the ropes? But then again Tierney would probably not have been risked against the likes of Albion Rovers or Brechin City – would he?
The SFSA survey of fans has shown, overwhelmingly, that the fans don’t want to turn up and watch their team against the Colts from the Premier League. We know that if a Rangers or a Celtic strip is worn at the opening of an envelope, then people will buy tickets to see it, however the competitive nature of our game and the very real support of our team is being used in quite a cynical and nefarious manner.
If people are truly serious about the development of the game, look seriously at the implementation of the McLeish report. If people are truly serious about the development of our game, then invest in making things much more competitive by sharing the sweeties more generously down the divisions. If people are truly serious about the development of our game, cast the net wider and not simply put the future of our game in the hands of those families who can afford to play it. If people are serious about having the game come out of this pandemic in a better state than before, then take serious action.
The first would be to clear out the dead horses and stop flogging them.
The changes made in the cup competitions show that there are some who have innovative ideas and whilst they may not be perfect, the changes are welcome because they are different – we have changes made to make things better. If they work – great – if they don’t we then know they don’t and can stop endlessly debating them.
I realise people could argue that the Colts in the Lower Leagues would be an innovation that needs to be tried to show if it would work but answer me this – name me the number of young players who have managed the transition from the Academy to the first team bus in the last few years for either of the Big Two? Then name me the number who have managed from Hamilton, Hibs, Queen’s Park? The fact is that Academies need support but we need to see how those who have a stronger grass roots base can be better at taking the raw and turning them cultured – then the rest can copy.
Until we see the way that numbers of young people are making it through the ranks and emerging, we shall continue to bang on about how the biggest investment needs to be targeted at the most successful. The problem I, and many others have, is the assumption that success is defined by who makes the grade in Glasgow.
If anything, Steve Clarke, especially with his latest squad, has blown that finally out of the water. Picking more and more non Auld Firm players and getting success, spirit and a squad that is capable of being competitive without relying on the big two is a message. It is a message that has been shouted for years – Scotland has depth. Not just in midfield but in the players who don’t get the chance because yet another foreign player is signed or the demands of making profit through Europe is given precedence over home grown ability.
Whilst clearing out the cupboard of the horses, the menu should start to include unpalatable truths. I wonder how many shall bring their knives and forks to tuck in.
The Budge won’t budge
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
The Budge has called a meeting…
She is not happy…
Those rivals in Leith were already running away with the major trades that had kept her Empire going…
Now inside the organisation, tensions have led to them taking a hiding from the amateur and part time hoodlums from the Highlands…
The Budge wants answers, and she wants action, and she wants it all now!
Picture the scene…
The Budge is holding court in her Tyny Castle.
Also, there is the main man, Mr. Neilson. He is sitting with his head bowed – awfa feart tae lift it.
“How long did we say we had tae dae this?” asks the Budge.
Mr. Neilson mutters, “Wan year.”
“Aye, she responds. And then, after all the turmoil, heaving out that Lithuanian monster, taking the indignity of being relegated tae second best in the city we get a hiding frae the Highlanders? Not a Sean Connery or a Christopher Lambert amongst them but we end up being the only wan who is humped. What dae ye have tae say fur yersel?”
Mr. Neilson keeks out from under his wild blond brow and mutters, “They will aw be fighting fur their joabs noo.”
“Fighting? Don’t make me laugh,” snorts The Budge.
“I am stunned. I am embarrassed. I am livid. Folk are coming tae get us. Folk are going tae be at this Castle, giving it big licks oan Saturday and we need tae be ready.” She points at the entrance below from the window at which she is now standing, towering over Mr. Neilson.
The Budge then shouts, “ARE YOU READY?”
Mr. Neilson jumps aff his chair and stands in an embarrassed and strange pose. He is way beyond caring how he looks. The dishevelled and shambling look he has cultivated was never more apposite than now as The Budge starts to wonder if she did the right thing bringing Mr. Neilson back into the fold. He had done wonders on the West Lothian estates. Despite the company he was running being a bit of a franchise, it was a decent outfit with plenty of growth. Mr. Neilson had made them premier league material. That was his job here. Things were going fine until the Battle of Brora.
That was where the wheels had started to come off. The Budge wanted nae mair budging in their “direction of travel.”
Former members of the Tyny Castle had also made their voices heard with a certain tattooed giant, Mr. Stevenson, coming off the side lines and calling it for what she saw it as – Big time Charlies forgetting who paid their wages…
The Budge was not finished with her critique.
“Mr. Neilson, I know that you are stunned too. I get you are embarrassed as well. I realise you know it is unacceptable. Completely unacceptable. It is only right that folk round here get tae vent their anger and their frustrations but Mr. Neilson be rest assured that I…”
The Budge, has now stealthily moved from the window to now being at the opposite side of the desk. Mr. Neilson is still standing in fear. The Budge stretches across the desk and looks directly under his mop of hair.
“I,” she continues. “I shall be watching.” With that she nods in the direction of the door, signalling Mr. Neilson to leave, he does not need a second invitation and flies out of it like a bat out of hell.
Out of the shadows, a figure emerges. Speaking to The Budge, this ghost says, “This falls well below our standards. There may well be people on the streets, and you will have to contend with that.”
The Budge nods.
He continues, “You all feel let down. You need to bounce back and get back to where you belong.” He pauses poignantly. Then continues: “Wherewebelong.”
The Budge nods.
He continues once more. “We are on the cusp. On the edge. Close to achieving that. Let’s not risk success by allowing that anger, that frustration to knock you off course. We still have a job to finish. I am sure I can help…”
The Budge turns to the ghostly figure and shakes her head. She speaks. “Not yet, Big man… Not yet.”
At that the ghostly figure of the Big Levein takes his leave… Never to return?
Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a certain Ann Budge has ever been visited by the ghost of Craig Levein so this is clearly untrue though a certain Ann Budge did utter some of those words in a carefully written statement during the week.
During the week, Hearts had to live with being dumped out he Cup by Highland League outfit Brora Rangers. They have since gone on to be defeated for the first time in hunners o years by Queen of the South. People are talking of crisis and some Hearts fans turned up at Tynecastle to protest. After the debacle at Brora, Ann Budge, the owner of Hearts, released a statement saying this: “The board, management and staff fully understand and share the anger and strength of feeling being expressed by our fans following what was a totally unacceptable performance and result on Tuesday evening. We can only echo the comments made by Robbie Neilson after the game. He was stunned and embarrassed, as were we all, by our exit at this stage of the Scottish Cup. It was, as the manager said, completely unacceptable and fell way below the standards that we set and expect at Hearts. Wecompletely respect the right of any and all of our supporters to make their voices heard and feelings known in a peaceful and law-abiding manner. However we are aware, from social media, that there is the suggestion of a fans protest at Tynecastle Park on Saturday prior to our Championship fixture with Queen of the South. We do not need to remind anyone that we are still in the midst of worldwide pandemic during which our focus has at all times been on ensuring the safety and security of everyone at Tynecastle. Nor do we need to remind you that it is unlawful for crowds to gather in public places due to current Covid restrictions. We must, therefore, urge all fans, in the strongest possible manner, not to congregate at Tynecastle Park on Saturday. Everyone associated with the club feels let down. However the most important thing now is to bounce back. At the start of this season every single one of us agreed that, above all else, this year was about winning the Championship and getting back to where we belong. We are on the cusp of achieving that objective. Let’s not risk success now by allowing frustration and anger to knock us off course. We still have a job to finish.” Hearts sit 13 points clear at the top of the Championship and are on the brink of returning to the Premier League. Robbie Nielson has commented, in the manner of crisis? What crisis?
Andy’s Sting In The Tale (26/03/2021) “Stevie’s Boys Done Good But Need to Do Better”
Stevie’s Boys Done Good But Need to Do Better
Despite the media-led optimism and even some pre match forecasts of a win the reality is Scotland are number 48 in the world rankings some 25 places below Austria.
More ‘a point saved than two points lost’ would be an honest assessment.
Austria looked a good side and their home match on Wednesday with Denmark will tell us more about the way our group will shape up and whether we are contenders in the group or makeweights.
Steve has made us difficult to beat and it is great to see passion and physicality playing a part in how we play.
Both are inherent Scottish strengths even if Carlos, the wee Spanish ref didn’t like it much.
There is no doubt that Israel will be a tough test on Sunday before we host the Faroes.
There were two great goals at Hampden last night if you missed them. Kalajdzic, all 6ft 8 of him, has been a star at Stuttgart all season and was the best player on the park with amazingly sure and fast feet for such a big man. His header to put them 2-1 up was simply sublime.
John McGinn’s equalising overhead kick was even better and up there with the best ever Scottish goals.
Quite how El Arbitro, Senor Carlos del Cerro Grande missed the rugby tackle on Ryan Christie for a stonewall penalty I’ll never know.
I hope he and his assistant, both with clear views at the time, had red faces when watching the highlights.
To be fair to Austria they also had a perfectly good goal disallowed for an imaginary Kalajdzic push on Tierney.
Norway and Germany Tell and Spell
Before their 3-0 win over Gibraltar on Wednesday the Norwegian team were out limbering up wearing training shirts carrying a wee message for Fifa and their Qatar world cup.
“Human Rights On and Off the Pitch”.
Seemingly innocent enough but in fact a direct and very political criticism of the regime in Qatar and their particular views on many things including the well known plight and conditions of the itinerant workers constructing the stadia.
Top flight Norwegian club Tromso had started an ongoing movement to boycott Qatar.
Fifa responded initially to Tromso’s petition with the usual lightness of touch saying that any boycotting countries would be banned from the 2026 World Cup too.
Instead of throwing the book at Norway Fifa then surprisingly came out with a statement saying “Fifa believes in the freedom of speech and the power of football as a force for good”.
Germany to their credit followed up with a team “Human Rights” top banner before their 3-0 win over Iceland on Thursday.
Same message as Norway just better choreography and visibility.
Well done to both.
If we protest in Israel maybe we will win 3-0 too.
Danmark Har Blinket
Last week we spoke about under pressure head of UEFA, Sandy Ceferin. He’s the one with our Colin Baxter calendar on his office wall in Nyon. Anyway he was and still is unfairly and unrealistically squeezing 12 host governments to guarantee at least 30% capacities at his Euros this June.
As fans we should all be firmly on his side.
But it’s not so simple.
This week Japan announced there would be no athletics tourists allowed to visit for the Olympic Games starting late July and confirmed doubts about how many actual home spectators would actually be allowed inside venues.
Nobody was surprised.
Back in Scotland, even with some progressive opening up from our lockdown likely the Belladrum organisers said it is with “deep regret” that too much uncertainty has defeated their plans as they cancelled July’s weekend festival.
Nobody was surprised.
Across the world including Europe a third Covid wave is very much a reality and the fear is it could make its way here too. Indeed as I write West Lothian is named in one newspaper as Covid capital of the UK at this moment in time.
And set against all this very real uncertainty Denmark did indeed blink this week and made some bold promises to Sandy and his team.
Very bold, incredibly optimistic and possibly foolish in a country where as of today with only 77 days till the first match the following is the reality.
No indoor or outdoor events, activities restricted to 5 persons, mandatory testing for all incomers and 10-day isolation for all newbies or positive test contacts.
There are also currently no entry criteria for fans travelling to Denmark or locals to watch football.
Nevertheless the Danes have confirmed that Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium will host at least 30% of its 38,000 capacity in June.
How can they do that?
Maybe they were smoking the same stuff as Boris who a few weeks ago offered to hold the whole event in London.
The reality is Sandy Ceferin’s team is lobbying and pressurising very, very hard all round Europe. With only 12 days till host countries have to commit and guarantee fans or give up their hosting rights the tension is mounting.
“Held og lykke til danskerne” for what it is worth.
Europe would not be anywhere near ready today for The Euros and there is no guarantee it will be in June either.
That, in itself, is the only certainty Sandy and his team can be sure of.
Well Done the Wee Rangers
I’m told they are still dancing on the Poverty Hill overlooking Dudgeon Park and who can blame them.
Around 80 fans had congregated on the Sutherland mound with a view and witnessed an incredible result.
The wee Rangers from the village of Brora, a metropolis of less than 1900 inhabitants saw off the wealth and might of Edinburgh’s Jambos without having played any league football since early January.
With just 5 training sessions under their belts and one friendly last weekend against Buckie Thistle this was unexpected to say the least.
The SFA decision to restart the Scottish FA cup was unfair to some of their members who the SFA and the secretive JRG had stopped playing.
Highland League teams were treated as an expendable afterthought in the rush to bring the frozen cup back to life.
Not a member focussed organisation but it was ever thus.
The scenes from the dressing room afterwards tell you what the players took from the result.
The Sky’s the Limit For the Girls in England
Sky have just signed a 3 year deal worth £24M to broadcast 44 live games from the English Women’s Premier league.
The BBC will still have an iron in the fire with 18 games from the top two leagues on BBC1 and BBC2 and these will be screened in Scotland too.
Sky has said they plan to treat the women’s game exactly the way they have treated men’s football.
This will up the ante and is seen by some as being transformational.
Progress like this has happened elsewhere.
Already in Mexico Monday nights have become “Womens’ football night”.
Maybe that’s heading our way too?
Go the girls.
England Men’s Games on Council Telly Free Thanks To Nationwide
This week’s news broke that ITV had partnered with Nationwide to make them the ‘stand alone’ sponsor of England men’s football matches on ITV from now till the 2022 Qatar tournament.
If you watched any of the England v San Merino game last night you would have seen the various sponsorship links. It was also live on Scottish TV while our match was only on Sky, as per normal.
I was intrigued enough to read up more about the Nationwide sponsorship this morning.
Surprisingly there was no easily found confirmation of how many pound notes the deal is costing the mutual owners of Nationwide, the customers of which I am one.
The organisation currently has circa 700 branches of which only around 35 are north of Hadrian’s Wall so we as a race are an under-represented population dynamic at the Swindon based mutual. If I was being pernickety the organisation seems not quite Nationwide enough to have reached north of Inverness or to any of our Islands.
Nationwide has said it will use this TV sponsorship to promote its partnership with the ‘FA Respect’ programme which seeks to foster mutual respect among players, coaches and children in a bid to ensure grass roots football can be played in a safe and positive environment.
Paul Hibbs, Director of Advertising at Nationwide, in a press release ahead of the live broadcast said “We are delighted to be in partnership with ITV on their England football coverage. It will allow us to reach fans at all levels and help build mutual respect through the beautiful game”.
Nationwide Also Sponsor Football in Scotland
But sadly not on telly so we can see Scotland games free.
I wasn’t actually aware of what they do sponsor up here but again a little digging has uncovered something called the “Nationwide Positive Play” initiative.
This is described as reinforcing the importance of football to make it fun for boys 12-18 and girls 13-19. It promotes fair play and rewards clubs and schools who create a positive playing ethos and “lets them play”.
There was no need to be ashamed though of my ignorance because I am not alone.
I have spoken to 4 people today about what they know about Nationwide in Scottish football.
One Skyless fan watched the England game and told me Nationwide were sponsoring all the qualifying games for Qatar.
He wrongly thinks Scotland games are covered too.
The others said they didn’t know of any Nationwide link and none were even aware of the sponsorship of the English match.
I’m not going to discuss the positives (money) or the negatives (less viewers, fan alienation, and eventual disinterest) of subscription sport.
Nevertheless I hope whoever is in charge of sponsorship and TV revenues on our 6th floor ivory tower at G42 9AY is justifying the reasons why English fans can watch their heroes for free when Scottish fans have to pay.
Just seems myopic, wrong and self-harming.
A bit like the next wheeze from the other org sharing the 6th floor ivory tower in the south side.
Most Fans Don’t Want Colt’s Teams Anywhere in the SPFL
Following the noise last week coming from Hampden and the pre-vote tactic of running a poll by their in-house supporters organisation we undertook a simple and fast piece of research.
Thanks if you were one of the 4500 fans who took the 2 minutes to answer our simple questions.
Only 37% of fans see the introduction of Colts/B teams as a good thing for our game.
57% are totally against the proposal.
6% are undecided.
A common thread through the space for comments by those against was the belief that this move would only help our biggest two clubs.
And for those in favour the view was that this is a major reason why countries like Spain, Holland and Germany are so successful.
I drilled into the research and found that the majority of fans who voted ‘yes’ are also fans of our two biggest clubs.
Fans who voted ‘no’ are also cynical that this is just another self-interest driven change being foisted on the game by those who wield the power.
My own view is that football in Scotland urgently needs to look at grass roots and elite development for both the boys and girls game.
It needs to ask questions like:
Why does Iceland, with the same population as Aberdeen, punch above its weight?
What does Croatia do that we can learn from?
What do we do well and what do we do badly as a football nation?
That is just for starters we need to re-ask the kind of tough questions Henry McLeish asked when producing his McLeish 2 report. You know the one that is now in a dark, bottom cabinet drawer somewhere on the 6th floor.
It should be the starting point for any debate or ahead of any vote.
Grass roots and elite development should be resourced as a priority.
For me, for now, any rush to usher in changes like this will be like Matt Hancock’s much overhyped but now long forgotten ‘test and trace’ programmes.
Our game needs a 360-degree review and plan and part of that might well be an honest assessment of the role colts teams play elsewhere.
I think John Collins is right to say we have to be more serious about elite kids but don’t buy into his ‘colts as a silver bullet’ belief.
Nothing is ever that simple.
I think the solution here will eventually be to start in our schools and local clubs and progress across the country and the leagues from there.
As always feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images and will be removed on request of the owner.
PRESS RELEASE: Scottish Football Supporters Online Poll Finds Only 37% of Fans in Favour of Colts Teams in the SPFL
Following speculation in the media and an upcoming club vote on Colt teams, the SFSA undertook some research on Twitter and a summary of 4,500 fans views are undernoted. This follows previous research conducted in 2020 when this proposal originally emerged where 60% of fans rejected the concept.
- 37% of fans support the introduction of “Colt teams”
- 57% of fans are against the proposal
- 6% are undecided
In comments to support their choice of for or against
- Fans sceptical of the proposal voice concerns that it would only benefit the top clubs
- Supporters of the proposals say look to other countries where the system works and is needed for youth development into elite level
A total of 4,500 fans felt strongly enough to voice their opinion on the topic of B/Colts teams following a reintroduction of a proposal introduced by Rangers last Spring.
The plan is for a vote by the 42 SPFL Clubs.
The SFSA polled fans between the 19th and 24th of March.
A common thread in fan responses was the sense that this proposal would only benefit the top 2 clubs. One fan said:
“One of the worst propositions to be tabled in years. An initiative that purely for the benefit of two clubs dressed up as a solution the national team’s ills. Will only serve to widen the gap between the OF (Old Firm) and the rest with no benefit to lower league clubs. Horrible idea” (@stonefish100)
The £200K carrot offered to lower league teams from the two Glasgow clubs was categorised by some as:
“what is basically a bribe.” (@EwanMubs25)
However, there were those who supported the proposal, with one fan saying:
“I think it is a great idea and I believe it can help push our game to the next level. Great to see league restructure. If it works well I think other clubs such as Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs will follow suit. If so we may see another restructure in league 1.” (@ExArgyll)
Andy Smith, Chairman of the SFSA, said “If you drill into our research you can see that most fans outwith those who support our two biggest two clubs are not currently in favour of this move. This is not because they disagree with the quest by people like John Collins for a better system for our elite young players. We all want that.
Elite development for both our male and female game needs a full debate and strategy not a hurried search for a magical panacea by an inherently failing structure.
The solution here will start at grass roots, in our schools and local clubs and progress across the country and leagues from there.
Every elite player in the world started at a very local level.
Our game has long failed kids right through the system and change is both needed and welcome.
That is the key issue.
FANS MAY OFTEN DISAGREE BUT CAN UNITE FOR THE COMMON GOOD IN THE GAME.
What is clear to see from our responses is fans care and will do what they can to help.
In the lower Leagues it is often overlooked that fans are responsible for up to 70% of revenues and as stakeholders they should be part of any process for change.
This is a project that needs a healthy discussion, a real strategy and community support, not the usual, usual”.
Scotland vs Austria Match Preview: “Che Adams could be the final piece of Steve Clarke’s Scotland puzzle”
A look ahead to Scotland’s opening World Cup qualifier by Ben Ramage, Reach Plc sports journalist and SFSA writer.
Che Adams could be the final piece of Steve Clarke’s Scotland puzzle
He’s not the Messiah, but he could prove to be a very talented boy to add to Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad as they embark on a jam-packed eight month international pilgrimage which may lead to a historic return to the promised land of World Cup football.
The Tartan Army have already guaranteed their emergence from the international desert to dine at the top table of European football this summer, with a spot at the European Championships already gratefully stuffed into their pockets.
For the first time since Euro ’96, the major tournament is coming home to Scotland this June.
On Thursday night the Dark Blues embark on a new qualification journey looking to book a place at the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
Austria are the first visitors to Hampden as Clarke’s troops head into ten games that could see the Tartan Army booking time off to head to Qatar in 2022 by this November.
Having not qualified for a major tournament in 22 years ahead of this summer’s delayed Euros, Scotland could find themselves competing in two in the space of just two years.
There’s obviously a hell of a long way to go before we’re logging on to Skyscanner to get our flights to the Middle East booked up, but Clarke may have already unearthed a rough-cut diamond that can help launch us towards back-to-back qualifications.
There is always at least one surprise inclusion in any Scotland squad announcement, and last week’s came in the form of English Premier League striker Che Adams, who cast aside any lingering hopes of an England call up by nailing his colours to the Saltire.
The criticism in some quarters of Scottish social media were truly laughable. Of course this criticism was not unexpected, given the young Southampton striker’s English roots allied to the fact he rejected the advances of Alex McLeish when the former Hampden boss approached him to join his squad shortly after he’d been involved with the England Under-20 side.
It would be incredibly naive to believe a talented forward at the start of his career, who had recently been involved in the youth set up of a country that qualifies for major tournaments every two years like clockwork, would drop that chance and commit to a country which – under McLeish’s guidance – was losing to the likes of Kazakhstan and struggling to beat the likes of Cyprus.
Of course Scotland’s qualification for Euro 2020 has played a big part in Adams decision to pull on the dark blue shirt. It’s a by-product of the excellent work that Clarke has done over the last two years that is replicated in football at every level. The better your team is, the higher the quality of player you can attract.
No matter how Scottish some people deem Adams to be when taking into account his place of birth, his parents, grandparents et cetera, all that matters to me is that he’s eligible. What is the point in having an eligibility system if you don’t use it? Especially if it allows you to pick up players of such quality that decide they want to play for your country.
Now it’s of course not guaranteed Adams is going to take to international football like a duck to water. But looking at how he’s performed in the top flight of England this season, it’s not hard to see that the 24-year-old has some serious talent in his boots.
Seven goals in 28 appearances in the Premier League, including against the likes of Chelsea and more recently Man City, suggests the St Mary’s forward can bring something to the Scotland party this year.
Especially when you compare him to the other strikers Clarke has called up for this crucial triple-header which also includes dates with Israel and the Faroe Islands.
Oli McBurnie has 0 goals in 15 caps and has been struggling to find the net for a poor Sheffield United side in the same division as Adams. Ryan Fraser has got two goals in 14 caps, which is not a bad return considering most of those appearances have come from the wings, while Lyndon Dykes has a reasonable two in seven.
Kevin Nisbet, while undoubtedly a clinical striker at Scottish Premiership level, has yet to taste international football which is of course a considerable step up from our top flight.
Now it’s not all about goals, and especially in the case of Dykes and Fraser their all-round performances for Scotland have been crucial to our recent successes, bringing into play the likes of John McGinn and Ryan Christie who themselves have found goalscoring form.
But I can’t be the only one that’s been concerned by Dykes considerable drop off in goals in the last few months at QPR. One goal in his last 23 appearances does not make for particularly pretty reading for any forward.
And when you look back at Scotland’s last six games, they’ve only mustered three goals in total – one each for Dykes, Fraser and Christie.
It’s clear that to get to the next level, and avoid qualifying for tournaments via penalty shootouts which have caused half my hair to turn grey in the space of two evenings of nerve-jangling action, Clarke needs to find a striker or strike partnership that can more regularly find the back of the net.
With the leaky defence all but fixed first, as we expected it would be given Clarke’s expertise at the back end of the pitch, and with the likes of Scott McTominay, McGinn and Stuart Armstrong in midfield Scotland could become a complete international outfit with a stronger front line.
If a system with Adams up front, or a combination of the 24-year-old and Dykes, can be forged over the course of the next week Scotland fans could truly be dreaming of emerging from the group stages of the Euros for the first time ever and qualifying for the 2022 World Cup outright come November.
A lot will have to go right over the course of the next eight months, but if the play-off final win over Serbia has taught me anything, it’s that dreams can come true following Scotland these days.
And if Adams can score winning goals in his first two games against Austria and Israel this week, I might even start believing Scotland’s new-found Messiah can walk on water.
To racism we should not kneel
The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:
Take a knee or stand still. No matter what you do, the fact is that people may well have moved on. It ought to be some form of real action. That would mean the stance taken would have meant something. We would have progressed beyond mere statements of intent.
We need real action, and the standard bearers of action should be those in authority.
And if action is ever needed then it is needed now.
Slavia Prague stand accused of having a player in their team, who, during a game of football, called another player, one of colour, a monkey. For that, Slavia Prague should shoulder responsibility and forfeit their place in the competition.
Anything less, is likely to come across as mealy mouthed and true kneeling in the face of difficult decisions.
Michael Stewart, however, who was schooled, or at least had the suggestion he should consult one, by Rio Ferdinand, was right to say that we should await the verdict of an investigation. The question is what should be the burden of proof to find the guilty, guilty?
To what standard should it be held? Beyond reasonable doubt? The criminal standard is where the racists and the bigot run because if you cannot prove I did it, ah didnae. The burden of proof should therefore only be the reasonable one. If a reasonable person can believe that this did or did not happen on the basis of the evidence presented, then the decision to be guilty or innocent rests with the organisation who is in charge – in this case UEFA. If we have criminal proof, then this will never be dealt with seriously. There shall always be a place to hide in “but can you prove it?”
The answer is, of course, that whilst we cannot prove it, the evidence is compelling, and a reasonable person would believe your guilt. Michael, this man is guilty.
The fact is that at some point in the second half, Ondrej Kudela, like a doubles tennis player, cups his hands over his mouth and mutters something to Rangers’ Glen Kamara. Kamara reacts with fury. There is little doubt that anybody who hides their mouth when speaking is only doing so because they wish not to be lip read. We live in a VAR/surveillance society. People who are innocent have nothing to hide. Guilty people have everything to hide, like everything they say.
This is not a penalty claim. This is not a red card incident. There is little or no reason for Kamara to react unless something has been said which is deeply offensive. Kamara was not trying to waste time, influence the referee or gain any form of sporting advantage. He was deeply and profoundly offended by what was said. That does not need a probe, nor an investigation.
Meanwhile the smoke that came with Slavia Prague filing an assault charge against Rangers in what they describe as a pre-meditated attack, is nothing short of risible. I believe there is already footage from the tunnel where this alleged assault took place that does more than cast doubt upon it.
Their statement read, “”The attack on player Ondrej Kudela was pre-meditated and planned, including deliberately covering the cameras at the scene of the incident. The brutal and crude attack was conducted with full intensity in order to injure and cause physical damage. The submission contains the names of witnesses, who, in addition to representatives of SK Slavia Praha, were also representatives of the UEFA delegation as well as Rangers FC coach Steven Gerrard.”
The incident on the park is bad enough. Should this be proven to be spurious, whether they have submitted it formally or not, they have forfeited the right to be part of any competition. UEFA must stand up.
The SFA and the SPFL should add their weight to the additional value placed upon Rangers’ protest by Glasgow Celtic who have joined with their bitter rivals in condemning the on field disgrace.
UEFA have announced an official probe.
What would be good is to stand up for the words on the cards this time and give racism the real red card by binning those who seek to use racism to further their own ends. A strongly worded statement from Scottish governing bodies that they are backing their member club would help.
Unless of course they think their member club, is wrong? Or they are acting in a manner unbecoming of an SFA/SPFL club in suggesting they back their player – even to the point that Kamara was offered the opportunity to leave the field of play by Rangers’ boss Steven Gerrard. Surely such action would be in contravention of some rule or other? Surely the very idea of running up the tunnel and pulling the players from the pitch would end with an official having a heated frenzy about decisions not being taken appropriately with the appropriate approval, no doubt filled in on the appropriate form. In triplicate.
But if we take the knee to this form of racism by showing a lack of ability to stand up when needed it means that all those who kneel and who stand are simply indulging in token nonsense in the fields whilst the terraces and the communities will be tasked with cleaning things up.
Unless of course, something real happens…