Mr. Lawwell and Mr. Walker

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

A one parent finally has arrived at customs. Dad has the passports and he is looking after his son who is trying his hardest not to misbehave… And failing miserably…

Picture the scene…

Mr. Lawwell and son Andy want through customs to get on their way and get home after a really stressful trip to the Arab States. Mr. Lawwell thought it would be a nice relaxing time for him to top up his relationship with his son and try and get his fitness regime back on track – the hotel they visited had babysitting services so he thought he could get away with leaving Andy in their care, whilst he got trim.

Things did not go to plan.

Firstly, there was the issue of going away at all. Nichola, Andy’s mum gave permission but there was the Ugly Stepfather in the background, Big Neil. The man from Doncaster was not too happy about it all but a few kind words, promises of the duty free and suggested rewards that might come his way in the future and he was all sweetness and light. Mr. Lawwell knew just how to get the right nods out of Big Neil…

Then came the trip…

The babysitting service broke all the rules, wee Andy was allowed to roam free and get into all sorts – the pictures were nothing short of embarrassing. Nichola has been on the phone several times giving it large about the responsibility Mr. Lawwell has not shown and how in future there is every likelihood she will be saying a big fat naw tae them ever going abroad again.

Mr. Lawwell has a big reddie as they used to say in the scheme.

He now has to navigate customs.

On the way back he was pure keeking it in case they ended up in one of the corridors that meant they could not get back into the country. He body swerved that. The fact they were now out the EU and that might mean he had to queue to get back into his own country instead of just following the green brigade through the entry for all EU citizens tunnel, had him in sweats but what he saw made him realise that all his fears were for naught.

They have arrived at a virtually empty airport… there are no queues… anywhere…

And then came the tax.

Little known and not paid at the country you have left but at your destination, officials in the Arab states felt that travelers were more likely pay if they are in sight of their own house than if you are trying to escape theirs; so to get back to Scotland Mr. Lawwell may need to stump up some cash.

The problem is that Mr. Lawwell is rooked.

His last penny was spent on the plane to keep wee Andy quiet.

Wee Andy knows that he has the whip hand, he is in control, he is the master of the situation and he is playing it for all he is worth. He has managed to get chocolate for breakfast, lunch and is angling for pop tarts back at the house for his dinner…

Just before they get to pay the tax, Mr. Lawwell goes over the plan one more time…

“Andy,” he begins. “You know what you have to say?”

“Baloney,” responds the little tyke.

“Andy!” Mr. Lawwell is not best pleased. He pulls him into his face. “Listen, ya wee fanny. If you do not pretend to be 5 years old, we do not get back into the country cos ah huvenae got the money fur tae pay the tax. Ye remember what happened tae yer Uncles on yer mother’s side, Uncle Craig and Uncle David when they didnae pay their taxes?”

Andy does not have a clue but nods because he knows that will stop the moaning.

Mr. Lawwell continues, “So, ye huv tae pretend for the next five minutes that you are five. Understand?”

Andy nods.

At that point a customs official from the country he has left taps Mr. Lawwell on the shoulder.

“Sir, we are ready for you now.”

Mr. Lawwell stands up, hopeful that nobody heard his conversation with his son. At times like this he wises that Papa Desmond was around to dip his hands in his pocket and pay out for the tax, but Papa Desmond has stopped returning his calls.

The official smiles and asks, “Today, sir we just need to ask one question. As you know there is a $100 tax for leaving our country with young people over the age of five. Can I ask the age of your young man here, sir?”

Mr. Lawwell tucks the passports back into his back pocket. Realizing that in them there is proof of Andy’s age for the first time, he starts to lose any confidence in his plan. “He is four and a half,” he replies, nonetheless.

The customs official bends over to Andy and asks, “That right little boy?”

“Baloney.” Replies Andy.

The customs official stands up. “Sorry?”

Mr. Lawwell, trying to take charge and being far too late to try and do so, responds, “He often uses words in the wrong context. It is a thing. He has a condition!” He quickly claims.

The customs official eyes him suspiciously. “A condition?”

“Aye,” responds Mr. Lawwell. “It’s called ADDHDR.”

“What is that sir?”

“It’s a rare form of developmental delay. It has a Latin name. I am not sure what it means.

The customs official bends back down to Andy. “That so?”

Andy smiles and responds, “Baloney.”

“It seems your young son might not share your view, sir.” He looks Mr. Lawwell in the eye and sees the nervousness.

“That’s part of the condition, you see. He says the same random things all the time.”

Mr. Lawwell has a brain wave.

“In fact, we were in your country to explore experimental therapies and have come back with tremendous ideas.”

“Is that so sir,” says the customs official, not too impressed. He recently had dental treatment in Scotland and it was a million times cheaper than in his own country’s health system so he cannot see how they have become adept at any type of treatment that would make them world beaters but there is always a first time, he supposes.

“So, sir, have you anything to declare today, apart from the young age of your son?”

Thinking he had got away with it, Mr. Lawwell visibly relaxes and responds, “Nothing, nothing at all. Apart from my genius.” He laughs at his own joke – far too quickly as he hears the snap of a rubber glove just behind him.

He visibly reddens.

The custom official explains, “Well sir, funny you should say that, but we have been informed that during your trip, you were engaged in some serious malpractice and we have searched your bags – nothing in there so, as your son is under five years old we cannot search him but you, on the other hand shall now have a full cavity search conducted.” He turns to Andy and ask, “And son. What shall we find on daddy today?”

Andy smiles and replies, “Baloney” as his father is guided towards a private room for an awkward interview.

 

Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that the Peter Lawwell has ever taken Andy Walker on any trip, this is therefore not true, though Mr Walker did use the word baloney with reference to Mr. Lawwell during the week.

During the week, Peter Lawwell, through Celtic TV issued an apology to fans of the club as their trip to Dubai has seen them castigated, criticised and fall further behind Rangers in the league – as well as people ending up having to self-isolate due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Andy Walker said of the apology that the first 30 seconds were worth listening to, the rest was baloney.

The SFSA Signs Armed Forces Covenant

We at the SFSA recognise the sacrifice and bravery of our armed forces past and present, and so to recognise this, and to support our servicemen and women, we have signed the Armed Forces Covenant – a pledge of support by us as an organisation for them and their families where possible.

Football is an important part of a fan’s life, regardless of the distance between them and their club. There have been countless football fans across the country who have served and sacrificed so much to keep our country safe, and so it is important to recognise this and show our support to veterans and their families in any capacity we can.

By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, we show our appreciation to their sacrifice and recognise the history between Scottish Football and our Armed Forces.

 

You can find our signed covenant below:

The Scottish Football Supporters Association Armed Forces Covenant

Gratitude is the hardest emotion

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Gratitude is not an emotion that people show in football often.

Fear, pain and fury are more likely to be the effervescent outward signs of our emotional distress when watching our team. Joy comes about frequently for some but for the most of us we have to harbour disappointment alongside occasional happiness.

Such is the lot of a supporter of a team in the lower leagues.

Sometimes you see the team you love begin to compete in ways hitherto unthinkable. Your dream begins to form into a reality as you see them in two trips to Hampden in a week, then they are in their very first national final and the team that was built to take you to a promised land has to be broken up and with it goes a little slice of your heart.

Reality has sunk in.

Not only did you over perform, you over-reached.

The spending boom was exactly that. A boom.

You are now going to see how you flirt with the opposite. Bust.

The man who helmed the expansion, built the stadia of others in which they believed and led us towards a new dawn, a sustainable future was ailing. The company he ran, began to flounder and the likelihood of us ever seeing the likes again fades as he leaves the Board Room.

You can ask people who followed Hearts, Rangers and Gretna how that feels.

Or you can ask anyone from Ayr United who watched it happen when Bill Barr was the owner.

It was a great time, and I would not swap it for anything but even during these times we could see how the finances made little sense. There was something not quite right.

We were a wee team. We had a big budget. We had big players and we achieved nationally significant results whilst the bigger teams managed to be at the top of their game and instead of us occasionally beating them, we were managing to look like a team that could hold our own with them.

How did we afford that? It was not ticket sales…

The dream was bust and bursting at the seams as we failed to get into the Premier League, failed to build a shiny new stadium and failed at the National Cup Final. We had the worry on top of that, that the bulldozer mentality that Sir David Murray, who came calling to buy us before he purchased Rangers would return and we were suffering from the possibility that a similar savour might come in, strip the assets, down market us and make things significantly worse than we were before.

An American family, a father and son were to arrive and take the club off the hands of the building magnate who took us on these incredible trips of fantasy.

Donald and Lachlan Cameron saved the club.

Full stop.

First the father, Donald, bankrolled and steered us from the possibility of losing it all to the safety of being at least part way sustainable.

Once Donald bequeathed the chairmanship to the son, Lachlan, Lachlan even came and worked at the club, taking leave from his trade in the US to try and build on his father’s legacy.

Annually this family poured cash into the club: my club.

They loved our country and like many Americans could trace their ancestry here, though unlike most they had a clear connection to us and a love that went beyond the tartan shortbread Brigadoon mystery. They cared.

Since the point that Lachlan became the figure head, there were plenty who saw him not as the Messiah but as an asset stripper who was trying to take a profit out for the investment he had made. Whilst that makes business sense and is exactly what most people do when they take over a business, fitba is different.

If I had a pound for every insult endured by Lachlan on social media, I would have bought the club myself. The fact is that Lachlan gave as much of himself as of his finances. I got to know him on the board of Ayr United Football Academy, a venture he backed. I got to see how his management of the club, was done out of the best interest of it as an institution. He cared, just like I did, for the club.

We did not always agree on things, though I never spoke to him about any of this, because it was unimportant. He was the man in charge and thanks to his largesse, I got to watch a club that meant so much to me win three promotions, keep Laurence Shankland at the club to see if we could get into the Premiership and thrive as an entity. It needed Lachlan and it needed his cash injection.

On Saturday the 16thJanuary I woke up to a new owner. After many years of having the club up for sale, there was a buyer. A local man who has a tough act to follow.

Sure, the plan several years ago to turn the club over to the fans and to pursue Community ownership remains my preferred option but, for the moment, we need to back a new guy. We shall.

Then we shall snipe and back bite, carp and complain, be ungrateful and unwavering in our support. As I said, gratitude does not come easily to us. But for now, thanks Lach.

Andy’s Sting In The Tale (15/01/21) “The Name of the Game This Week Has Been to Control the Narrative”

Mistakes in Football Need a Big Response

 

150 days till Hampden*, 154 Days till Wembalee*

A week is a long time in football north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Looking for fast closure our SFA had quickly gone public with an embarrassing, in hindsight,  “Nothing to see here, move along Hen” press briefing.

This was aimed at stopping our First Minister and others in their tracks as interest in the recent Dubai trip was escalating, becoming political and an easy media story too.

The typical hamfisted football attempt to close ranks on Celtic’s wee sunny sojourn backfired.

This is not a Celtic story just one that is an insight into how Scottish football works and how interlinked the narrative is.

I wrote last week that what started as a “Stooshie in a demitasse” would grow legs and it did.

From all I’ve since read and from conversations with people who know more than me it seems Celtic did nothing that actually broke the law in deciding to travel a few hours before the deadline.

At first the club were righteous in their innocence and they and the SFA quoted government approval as a justification.
They didn’t say this was the JRG a football coalition not a government department and it was back in November.
Nor did they reappraise the decision to fly after the situation across Scotland and the UK changed meaning the travel dates meant Celtic would effectively escape increased lockdown in Scotland and beat the curfew by just a few hours.

I think one week on most people now feel they broke the spirit of the new rules.

Is the media treatment fair?

This story featured all week with a pack of journos and politicians on their case.

See the source imageTom English at Auntie Beeb got tore in good style accusing the club of creating a “Soap opera of their own making”.
Not many after the media frenzy would disagree with him although I had one Celtic fan telling me he thinks it’s all a media conspiracy against his club.
A club that has made themselves very easy targets and he would agree with that.

The truth too is that there is an innate Scottish trait that likes to see success brought back to ground level with a bump and some in the media will be glad to jump on to any anti Celtic bandwagon.

It Took a While But…..

…Peter apologised.

Sort of.

See the source image“It’s been an extremely difficult few days and on reflection, looking back with hindsight and the outcome of the trip it was clearly a mistake. For that I apologise to our supporters”.

Peter apologised on Celtic TV in 5 minutes of scripted narrative (and full control).

Many Celtic fans have changed their minds over the week and are now unhappy with both the decision to go and the apology.

Visiting a few fan sites this is typical, “Shocking apology from Peter that then just defends the reasons for going”.

Ex player now media presenter Andy Walker said Peter’s first 30 seconds were delivered with humility and sincerity but said, “Sadly the other four minutes were baloney”.

Some fans still disagree and said stuff like “How do we move forward, Stick together”.

The Celtic fan base mostly thinks the trip was an error of judgement given the significant change of circumstances from time of booking to time of departure.
Some think there is some schadenfreude spicing it all up.
I’d agree with that.

It was and will be always thus in our fishbowl.

See the source image

Even SPFL Grand Fromage Neil Doncaster was brought into the confuffle. This I think was either because Hibs were affected by Celtic in two ways and were unhappy or perhaps because he was looking to pour oil on troubled waters for a friend.

Maybe both.

The first issue Hibs were grumpy about was having a Saturday match moved to a Monday night because of their opponents planned sunshine trip.
Hibs were not happy that the request was granted.

See the source image
The second was because Hibs subsequently asked for extra testing because of the Celtic player Christopher Jullien having tested positive.

Both requests refused by Neil and his team who subsequently told the media the reasons why both requests were turned down/not considered.

For me this is an insight into so much more.

The SPFL reasons stated were nothing to do with what is right for the game or the fans like most of us might hope.

Both decisions were because the SPFL say they followed their rules.
The same rules that are a testament to years of running the leagues and honed to within an inch of their lives by a self-interest voting system that will always preclude any narrative for sense or change.

“It is really important as a league that you apply the rules and you don’t get into value judgements on whether clubs should or shouldn’t be going on training camps” said Neil.

 

Dubai Outfall Aplenty

See the source image

The ripples for the, just about legal, trip that didn’t break SPFL rules didn’t stop after the Hibs draw.

Scottish Cup, SWPL and Lower Leagues Were Then all Suspended

It was a move that reminded me of the way Hearts were barred from training for at least two or three days last year by the JRG after their appeal failed and they were no longer allowed in the Premiership life-raft.
The self same JRG had acted just fast after Nicola’s warning not to “Abuse privileges” back then and Hearts were an easy punchbag.

The usual heavy-handed decisions were again made this week and decreed to all and sundry.
And that was it.
Except there was pushback.
And still is real pushback and unhappiness.

Both Falkirk and Stenhousemuir were contacted by the press and confirmed there was no consultation from the governing bodies, as the closures were made public.

See the source imageGary Deans of Falkirk, a full time club, accused them of “Unfairness, inconsistency and double standards”, after an SPFL Zoom invitational meeting on Wednesday.
A member meeting where clubs were not allowed to ask questions.

WTF?!

Yes that would be a fair question about stopping members speaking in their own member’s organisation forum concerning decisions that affect their survival.

Rodger Morrison, Peterhead Chairman who spoke sensibly across last summer during our wee Pantomime Season called for “All games to be off” and said he was doubtful about whether the season will be finished.

 

See the source imageIain McMenemy of Stenhousemuir summed up the state of play saying, “Lower league clubs are paying for the Celtic training camp. We’ve been let down and made a sacrifice to appease an angry Scottish Government. I’m also unhappy with the SPFL who put out a statement saying they fully support the decision to suspend the leagues. We were never asked. They don’t have my support or any other chairman I’ve spoken to. The first we heard was the usual email statement going out to the media”.

I can’t even print the quote today from my source at Partick Thistle, a full time club who were a victim of some dreadful self-interest voting in the summer and subsequently lost £350K more in Rod Petrie’s wee divvy-up of tax payers bale-out money.

 

TV Deals Above Safety says Robbo

I missed the statements earlier this week from both the SFA and SPFL confirming that the reason to keep both top divisions open was to protect the media and commercial contracts in place.

This meant the championship clubs have had to find a way of joining the testing twice a week clubs in the top tier, without any warning.  “I’m sorry, said Robbo,  “they’re putting TV deals before players, support staff, and families”.
Ian Maxwell has now written to Championship clubs to gauge feelings and attitudes.
Replies by Monday night we’ve been told.
Embarrassed into action but well done Ian.

Neil’s Latest Attempts to Start to Control the Narrative

See the source image

The Big Partnership is a PR agency.
More than that they are the SPFL PR agency.
My advice to them is if they they haven’t already increased their retainer from the SPFL then they should be looking for higher fees.

Stories and “interviews” were duly placed by this agency across the press today in a textbook attempt to bring back stability to the centre after a week of skirmishing.

I like Michael Grant in The Times and always find Keith Jackson at The Record has good insight too but today I feel both were boxing with one hand tied behind their backs as they wrote.
Almost like they were writing from a press release just handed to them.

Hope I’m wrong guys, let me know either way.

The Last Word, Henry Style

Henry McLeish wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera

Former First Minister Henry Mcleish is one of my board at the SFSA.
We’re all volunteers.
We do it because we are all football people and want to leave football in a better place and will fight for the common good.
We’re not in the pocket of the SFA or the SPFL or any political party either and can be honest about the issues.
Hence this blog and its forthrightedness.

Anyway Henry was invited on to BBC Scotland Breakfast show the other day answering questions about a non-football topic when the interviewer at the end of the piece asked for his views about the Dubai trip.

Henry was honest and to the point saying he thought it was a mistake of judgement and basically cut to the core of the issue the way retired politicians find so easy.

It was good radio.

This got him an invite on to Sportsound that night and he hit the bell again with a perspective that sees this as more than a tiff about a training camp.
It’s worth a wee listen too with stuff like-
“Scottish Football’s relationship with government has hit rock bottom and the Scottish Government doesn’t trust the SFA and the SPFL”.

you can listen to Henry’s Piece here (48:30) BBC Radio Scotland – Scottish Football, Sportsound Podcast :11 Jan 21. Celtic’s stars & manager self-isolating as more points are dropped. And lower leagues suspended.

We’ve talked about that breakdown between both sides for weeks and this leads to our next wee vignette.

A story that will just get bigger and bigger until it is all out in the open.

Rod and Ian’s £11.35 Million Divvy Up

See the source image

Sounds like a title for a TV game show and the reality might not be that far off with winners and losers like in any other game.

The new game involves an SFA plan to give away a lot of pound notes to our game and it’s the richest show in town too.

I’ve asked around and been told the money was allocated just by the SFA taking the initial confirmed total and ending with nothing left to give out.
Not even a brass razoo.

I’ve also been told the opposite and that the proposed allocations were shared with and endorsed by the Scottish Government.

Both stories doing the rounds can’t be correct.

I smell some attempts to cover the truth but so far don’t know why.

I say that because the actual published allocation proposals seem to be a format that takes no account of the real community status of those receiving the funds.
No basis in actual reality.
That’s what the minister wanted.
To me the current plan looks much more self interest rather than common good.

And why are our community clubs in the Premiership not part of the bale out?

For context the totals are

Championship. £5M (£500K per club)
League 1. £1.5M (£150K per Club)
League 2. £1M  (£100K per club)

Tier 5. £1.1M
Tier 6. £0.65M
Tier 7. £0.950M
SWFL1. £150K
SWFL2. £20K
North Caledonian League. £24K
Scottish FA. £0.750M
Scottish Amateur FA £100K
Scottish Junior FA. £12.75K
Scottish Welfare FA. £12.75K
Scottish Women’s FA. £20K
Scottish Youth FA. £35K
Para ANA. £12.75K

 

Question Time About Public Money

As stakeholders let me first say SFSA are glad and relieved that the UK and Scottish governments have put in place a package to help our game.

However without transparency and more information this will become a cancerous sore rather than the desperately needed help it was and is intended to be.

There is an overwhelming  need for transparency around the SFA process and plan because it is public money.

We have 7 simple questions for now that we have so far walked our civil servant through them and will now formally ask the Minister who is responsible for football.

1 Who agreed the plan for £20M loan fund and £10M in grants for all below the Premiership?

2 Who mandated the exclusion of Premiership clubs (many of which are community clubs) from grants?

3 Why was this particular decision made?

4 Who then allocated the £11.35M total into the categories subsequently briefed to the media (and listed above)  including money for the SFA, use unspecified?

5 Was there any Scottish government involvement or input in how the government money for football was sliced up as some press reports state?

Were the Scottish government or civil servants involved in any other ways and if so are there records of any such discussions or planning in the public domain?

6 Was there any Government criteria for how the money allocated for football was to be used apart from the announced stipulation of no grants, just loans for Premiership clubs?

7 Did and do the Scottish government have any/final approval on how the three funds £10M, £1.35M and the £20M loan funs are to be used and is there any accountability process built in?

This will run and run.

 

150 Days Till Hampden*, 154 Days Till Wembalee*

See the source image

The 12 city planned format for Euro 2021 might become a Covid victim.

Glasgow and London might therefore become Covid victims too.

UEFA will seemingly decide in March.
If they then choose to hold the tournament in a Covid bubble somewhere like Germany or Finland then fans like my son who has tickets for Hampden will get no refund.

“Outbloodyrageous” says Andy.

Fans have been informed that if they want a refund they must apply by the end of January, way ahead of UEFA making any decision.

You’ve already shared your views with us since this broke and we’ve already sent our views to Maxie at the SFA.

We’ll let you know if we get a response.
The SFA are not good at responding to fans though so don’t hold your breath but we feel they should be lobbying UEFA in union with other countries similarly threatened.

The Secret SFA Process Came to a Decision

See the source image

The Killie and St Mirren SFA appeal met last night and was in secret.
We’ll never know who was on the panel, what was said or what rules were used.

That in itself is a nonsense and has no future in our sport.

Chick Young last week summarised it all well when he said “the SPFL punishment was like getting the death penalty for riding a bike with no lights”.

I laughed at that.
The outcome of the appeal is equally funny.
It is an SFA reversing of the earlier idiotic SPFL decision by the first secret panel in another secret process.
The games will be played.

The SPFL statement tonight on hearing the result is classic and made me laugh out loud;
“We note the decisions by the appellate SFA tribunal in relation to the sanctions imposed by an earlier independent SPFL tribunal”.

Nobody speaks like that Neil, not even in Bridgerton.

Publish and be praised guys, this is all bollocks!

 

Whitehill Should Appeal

Whitehill Welfare say integrity of Scottish Cup is in question after punishment decision | Midlothian Advertiser

Still out of the cup and damned by the same secret decision making process. Maybe Whitehill should appeal to the SPFL and get them to reverse the SFA decision to ignore the ineligible player playing for Hill of Beath in early December.
(I know that is a stupid thing to say so don’t write in to tell me).

 

Don’t ask though me what we have an SFA and an SPFL as parallel organisations.

I have no idea.
it makes no sense today, never did and gets in the way of real change for the good of the game.

How much in salary could that save us all?

 

Finally in a Week About Controlling the Narrative

Let me leave you with two quotes from others who have tried to do just that.

Both succeeded for a short time but eventually abjectly failed.

See the source image

“The Name of the Game is to Control the Narrative”

Lance Armstrong

 

 

 

“When I Can’t Control the Narrative I’ll Discredit the Press”,

The Donald Trump

See the source image

 

So it doesn’t always work especially in the long term.

I wonder if Lance and The Donald had The Big Partnership on retainer too?

 

As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.
I try to reply to everyone and as fans know we will never all agree about everything and sometimes anything.

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

Cup tied

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Cup Tied…

Oh, the romance of the cup…

As the third round of the FA Cups in both Scotland and England are in the midst of being played as I write, I can hear the dulcet tones of every interviewer, pundit and presenter saying that one word – Giantkiller.

Oh, how we love that phrase – for everyone else’s club, never wur ain!

This is the heart of the romance of the competition. The Scottish FA Cup is where the winner will have played four games to win it, as they are more than likely to be a Premiership side who joins in the fourth round. However, this is a competition that started in mid August and has already seen some great ties played.

Over the years, cup competitions have been devalued as they are often won by the same teams – or same team over the last four years in Scotland – or they no longer have huge prize money or automatic qualification for a valued European Cup competition.

Since the demise of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1999, the winners of cup competitions have seen themselves entered into the UEFA Europa League instead. It is the competition that, like the Tunnock Challenge Cup in Scotland, is only important when you are doing well!

Cue tales of Manchester and Seville from supporters of the big two!

But this year, given the lack of supporters in grounds and the lack of live watchable football, there may indeed be a change. We might now have a taste for it as we are starved of any real live experience so we can start to become excited by Dundee scraping through, the giant killing of a place called Chorley or just the format that sees a result at the end of the tie… every single time…

As clubs at the top of English football use their second string or youth players to match up for their League Cup and we have tinkered with our format to find something new to do with it, that too could do with an overhaul. Well maybe not an overhaul, maybe just a tinkering. And not really in the halls of the SFA but in our own approach to it all…

For clubs below Rangers and Celtic, these competitions bring rewards in terms of likely trophies to be won, income to be generated and the opportunity of giving their supporters something about which to cheer.

In 2021, following 2020, can there be anything better?

The Scottish League Cup in 2021 sees no Rangers, St. Mirren having dispatched them and no Celtic, thanks to Ross County. Both teams struggling at the foot of the Premiership were delivered massive opportunities.

Unfortunately, County could not capitalise and Livingston knocked them out in the quarter finals, but we do have Livingston, St. Johnstone and Hibernian in the semi finals too – all four clubs with managers with a back story and an opportunity to prove themselves.

The Bet Fred Cup presents all of them with something the league will fail to provide – glory.

What’s not to love?

We are in the business end of the competition and there shall be no giant killing, but the results of the weekend of 23rd/24thJanuary will give us plenty of food for thought…

Mr. Mourinho and Youth justice

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Thursday afternoon at the Hampden and there are chaotic scenes…

A youth coach is due to attend a disciplinary panel for his post-match comments

Picture the scene…

In the big room, which is down the corridor from the wee waiting room, are four big chairs, four people, opposite two wee chairs. In the big chairs are a lawyer, a youth justice worker, a former coach of a wee team and the Prosecution.

The prosecution is a former lawyer who has cut their teeth on substantial Sherriff and High Court matters and is now assisting the SFA in all things stick. They were told they were coming in to be at least contributing to both the carrot and the stick but since arriving they have not seen any carrots in the building.

Mr. Mourinho, youth coach to the Pumpherston Not So Athletic under 13s has been saying things.

The SFA do not like people saying things.

The fact that these things are things that are negative towards them has made them doubly no happy.

The SFA are often no happy.

When they are no happy, they get people to attend an independent panel and say why they are no happy. At the end of this no happy process, the people who are called, the guilty ones, get a stick or a punishment for making the SFA no happy.

The person who makes them come and see the independent is the Prosecution.

Today they don’t have their big stick with them. They don’t often need to bring it with them.

The door opens and the aforementioned youth coach, Mr. Mourinho enters.

The prosecution note that they are alone. “What dae they think they are, special?” thinks the Prosecution.

The chair of the panel, former coach of a wee team, and secondhand car salesman from Pitlochry indicates a chair and invites Mr. Mourinho to sit.

It is a wee chair. Mr. Mourinho objects.

“But that is chair for primary school,” he says.

The chair is ready for this.

“Mr. Mourinho, if ye are gonnae object tae every decision we are making and be aw thon argumentative way we are aw gonnae waste wur time being here and ah’m no gonnae be aw thon way where ah’m thinking yer a guid guy sae sit, please.”

The chair, using the vernacular of the street as he was told he should, in the online SFA Guide to Making Folk Guilty training course for independent panel members, feels quite good that he has mastered the art of speaking the lingo of the average coach.

Everyone else thinks he’s a tube.

Mr. Mourinho sighs. He knows what is coming.

He sits.

The Prosecution reads out the charges.

“Mr. Mourinho, you have been asked to attend today because of your comments after an under 13 match was called off. You were overheard by the assistant referee suggesting that this was due to the incompetency of the organizers, to wit, this Scottish Football Association. How do you plead?”

Mr. Mourinho looks perplexed. “Plead? Is this court?”

Knowing that Mr. Mourinho was of the foreign persuasion, the chair takes a lead. After all he once sold a Lada to a Lithuanian. He has the necessary background in dealing with those of “an alternate persuasion.”

“Right, Mr. Mourinho. Over there.” He points to somewhere outside the room. Mr. Mourinho looks behind him. “You might get away wi saying yon thingmies in yer private time.” Mr. Mourinho looks back at the chair, none the wiser. “But over here.” The chair taps the table vigorously. “We dinnae pit up wi thon nonsense. Got me?”

Mr. Mourinho didn’t but nodded, in the belief that this was beyond him already.

The chair then turns to the Prosecution and asks, “We have the evidence from the assistant referee?”

The Prosecution nods and says, “We got a statement off them and they are a lawyer in a big office so they wouldn’t lie so we just accept it as fact.”

“And they are a referee.” Agrees the Chair.

The rest of the panel nod.

“Right son.” It is the turn of the lawyer to speak.

“As I understand it, the game was quite rightly called off before kick-off. This was due to there no being a referee and the other team no turning up. They had folk that were sick. You said it was “unprofessional”, is that right, son?”

Mr. Mourinho responds, “It was. I had players there and ready to…”

“Guilty then.” The chair notes this in his notebook. Prosecution nods. The panel agree though the Youth Justice Worker starts to become unsettled.

The lawyer continues. “So, the issue we have then is that it was a Sunday, and it was raining.” Mr. Mourinho looks confused. “You seemed to suggest we were responsible for that.”

“Sure, I said, that…”

“Guilty again.” The chair notes this in his notebook. Prosecution nods. The panel agree though the Youth Justice Worker is really becoming unsettled.

The lawyer brings matter to a close with. “And to cap it all, Mr. Mourinho, and I have to say the worst one of all, you compared this organization to the English FA!”

“Well, I did say, that…”

“Guilty once again.” The chair notes this in his notebook. Prosecution nods. The panel agree and the Youth Justice Worker finally speaks. “Chair, I must object…”

“Noted, two votes to one. Mr. Mourinho, have a seat outside whilst we decide your fate.”

Mr. Mourinho, unsure of what has just happened gets up and walks out of the room. As the door closes, the chair sums it all up.

“So, can we have some of that nice coffee? Here’s the deal. We sit here for another fifteen minutes, get him in, ban him for two games, warn him over future conduct and all is well that ends well?”

The Prosecution is up at the Nespresso machine whilst the Youth Justice Worker looks round the room. It may just be a voluntary thing, but she knows she shall never come back to this. It feels too much like the unbalanced way authority deals with the vulnerable young people she meets in their employ.

Outside the room, Mr. Mourinho is on the phone arranging his new appointment that is not in Scotland.

By the end of the day, Hampden notes, plus ca change… as Chief Justice Del Boy might say…

 

Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that the SFA have a Nespresso machine, this is therefore not true, though a certain Mr. Mourinho did criticise the English FA over their handling of a match postponement and his complaints are used within this.

During the holidays a match between Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham was called off with 3 hours to go before kick-off. Spurs manager called it incompetence and likened it to when he was an under 13 and under 15 coach at Porto. There are some people who think such incompetence would never happen here; visiting hour is between 2pm and 3pm Monday to Friday should you wish to consult them.

Andy’s Sting In The Tale (08/01/21) “Always Go the Extra Mile”

It’s less Crowded There

I hope you like the new self-help mantra that Heather from Inverness sent me last week telling me she loves The Sting and asking us to keep up the good work.

I usually hate all the self-help stuff but this one is up there with some of the Connollyisms that have got me through life.

I promise I’ll write a blog called “Windswept and Interesting” or get a big black greyhound dug called Bob and other stuff he has given me into something soon.

Anyway 2021 has come in cold and bringing more of the same that 2020 left us with.
Talk of further government restrictions and no likelihood of fans anywhere till probably at least the end of this fanless season.

I hate saying it but it maybe even later, as the virus mutates masterfully.
Nobody knows, not the scientists, not Jason, not The Donald over the pond, not even Boris.

 

Are we in good shape for the future?

Have the SFA and The SPFL and their wee sneaky joint venture to get round the club vote  thingy, the JRG, come up with a long-term vision, strategy and plan for our game, top to bottom male, female, kids and community?
Neil Doncaster - Edinburgh Live

No.

Don’t be naïve Andy.

Scottish Football has no windswept and interesting post-Covid plan apart from reverting to where we were before.

No surprises there but it leads us to Scottish football’s stark choices.

 

Brave or Grave New World?

See the source imageIn the last few weeks we’ve seen a briefed fall out or two in the media mostly in the back pages between the JRG posing as the game and the government. Primary school stuff that we’ve seen before.

Much more importantly we’ve witnessed what informed insiders perceive to be a fundamental lack of trust between those who run our game and want it all kept behind closed doors with no public records and the Scottish Government who don’t and can’t work that way.
Not when public money is being asked for from taxpayers and then dispensed SFA/SPFL style.

There is no doubt that some of our bigger clubs have been damaged financially by this unnecessary spat, especially those top league clubs who are highly active in their communities.

Outside of all the virtual closed room meetings we all talk and “Andy there is a real wind of the need for change blowing outside the 6th floor of Hampden” is one insight from my discussions and “At least 10 Premiership club’s feel let down and half a million worse off” was another.

Nicola is on Our Case 

She asked for an enquiry into the Celtic trip to Dubai and the SFA said “Move along there is nothing to see there, hen”. or words to that effect in their press release.
Not smart in a lockdown.
There is a real chance that the untested levels of football and other sports might fall victim to increased controls and while the government  want ‘elite” sport to continue for  bunch of social and societal reasons I’ve been told she is fed up with the constant machinations that dealing with football brings her and her team.

Some Good News with Just 161 Days Till Wembalee

 

See the source image

The Euros will almost certainly happen because of the TV revenues and the next world cup but the question that won’t go away is will there be fans present?

Our three Euro matches are scheduled for Hampden at 2pm on Monday June 14 vs. Czech Republic, at Wembley 8 pm Friday June 18 vs. England and Hampden 8pm again vs. Croatia on June 22.

Not sure where our early plane home will fly to this time.

But maybe, just maybe, just maybe Stevie?

We now have 3 approved vaccines after today and more in the pipeline and that brings some optimism but nothing is for certain as this Covid devil moves quicker than Jinky ever did.
And answering Peter from Brechin, I don’t know if fanless Euros will deliver a shortfall to our expected SFA windfall of £10ish millions of which £3M-ish is a players pot.

Probably and not good news.

Testing Times for Our Community Premiership Clubs

Last week Gordon Blackstock of the Sunday Mail got in touch about a nice piece he was writing about the scary protocol-agreed costs of regularly testing all our Premiership players for Covid.

Seemingly the original test that was approved by the secretive JRG to allow the season to kick off is now way more expensive than other options.
Testing as mandated has a negative financial impact of circa £400K per annum to each club.

This seemingly could now be reduced significantly but nothing is being done.

See the source imageThese are the same clubs that also missed out on at least £500K in the SFA bludgeon style divvy-up of the government and National Lottery £11.35 Million because the government wanted the money to get to the communities not the cash eating clubs some of whom are still spending like money was no issue. The JRG are said by insiders to have failed abysmally to make the case for all their clubs. I’d guess that means all those outside our top two.

Anyway Ian, Rod and Neil here is a wee idea Gordon and I came up with to help the top league.

 

Step 1 Ask the clubs if they would like the testing paid for them by the SPFL SFA or both, maybe even have a wee vote.
Step 2 Borrow the total at current low almost zero interest rates and pay the clubs the money.
Step 3 Take a very small, almost unnoticeable percentage each year of future Premiership media or sponsorship payments until the testing bill is paid back.

No extra club debt and full testing for as long as required to keep the tv revenues rolling.

There, sorted that for you all, for the game by the game for the game.

Gambling Aware?

Let me start by saying that I have no issue and indeed intimate personal knowledge of most vices including gambling.
It doesn’t control my life and I can easily watch a football game without any wager although I find horse racing dull without a wee interest.

See the source image

The SFSA have worked with Gamble Aware for a few years because we agree with what they are trying to do and as part of our agreement this year undertook some research for them.
Thanks to all of you who helped out too.

78% of us think there is too much gambling sponsorship in our game.
54% have understood the “Avoid bet regret “ message we have sent you for a long time.
52% are concerned that gambling is too prominent in all aspects of our game.
(Full results are on our web site).

Local gambling support organisation is linking up with the Scottish Football Supporters Association | Greenock TelegraphWe sent out our research findings to some folk in the media and we were invited and then featured today on BBC Scotland along with the amazing Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk who’s personally been to hell and back with his own gambling.
Ahead of the broadcast I did some research on gambling and football.
Here are a few snippets that will make you think.

Between 71% and 89% of all screen shots on BBC Match of the Day match footage contains gambling advertising. (Advertising is not allowed on BBC by the way)

Scotland has 45,000 gambling addicts and 160,000 of us are classed as “at risk” (take out under 18s  and that is over 3% or 1 in 30 Scottish adults)

Gambling causes 500 suicides in the UK each year so 1 a week in Scotland pro rata.

 

Quite simply football is normalising gambling and while most of us are unaffected some fans can’t cope with the resultant pressures.

 

I don’t approve of football being used like that and neither do most of us.

 

Meanwhile Down In Engerland

Most of us watch English football and just like up here gambling advertising and promotion is everywhere there too as existing bookies evolve and new entrants come in and fight and spend big budgets in football.
Stuff like – Who will score next?
Who will get the next corner?
Have a free spin during half time.

Half of the premier clubs and 17 out of 24 Sky BET Championship clubs have betting on their shirts.

Betting companies warned they must go further despite voluntary ban on TV ads during live sports broadcasts | The Independent | The Independent

Richard Masters heads the Premier League and acutely aware of the issues financial and the responsibilities heading his way said recently “Gambling requires stronger governance particularly to protect the vulnerable”.

Gambling is not devolved unfortunately and the gambling act of 2005 is currently being reviewed by Westminster.

Feel free to Google it and make comments – you have till March 31st and it is your right if you have views.

The gambling industry knows it is in the spotlight the same way tobacco and alcohol did and favours self-regulation but that may not be enough.

Up Here in the Frozen North it’s Platitudes Time, Again, Surprise, Surprise

Ronnie Cowan (politician) - WikipediaEarlier in the year when Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde asked about gambling in Scottish football and got nowhere apart from a prepared press release and again this week when Auntie Beeb invited the SPFL to be on the lunchtime show today with me, the SPFL got their PR agency to draft almost the same platitudinal response they had for Ronnie.
Here is some of it.

“Since the introduction of the Football Pools betting has closely been associated with our game and provides much needed income. For many fans having a bet is part of their enjoyment of the sport. The SPFL continue to engage with Gamble Aware and supports responsible gambling”.

The difference between north and south of the border’s attitude is palpable.

Neil, Instant betting 2021 style is addictive in a way the Football Pools could never be and never were.

The SPFL attempting to compare the modern gambling epidemic by reminiscing about the football pools of the past where you picked the games across the leagues, guessed multiple results and paid the wee man 25P on a Thursday night when he collected your coupon is highly misleading.
Pool coupons were not in the same league as the addictive instant win challenges thrown at you on your phone and interactively while watching a game.

So far apart the expensive press release Neil is worthless and worse than that this kind of response questions everything you ever release to us the stakeholders.

Also here is some advice Neil.
Football in Scotland should not be hiding behind fans capacity to say no to betting as an excuse to continue to allow damaging gambling ingress into all things football.
It should never ride roughshod over the rights of those who are vulnerable and need help.

And our research shows most of us want to see a change.

 

We can do better

Football has a responsibility to clean up its act for all us who enjoy a flutter.
We need to consider those who are susceptible and all under 18s who have plenty of time to find out about the world of chance and opinion that many of us find enjoyable.

 

The SFA Divvy Up Disgrace

For those who didn’t see my Xmas sting this is how the SFA split the money they were allocated by the Scottish government.

Rod’s Divvy-Up Plan for the Taxpayers Pound Notes

Rod Petrie steps down as SFA president as health issues force temporary move - Daily Record
Total allocations per Sector

Championship. £5M
League 1. £1.5M
League 2. £1M
Tier 5. £1.1M
Tier 6. £0.65M
Tier 7. £0.950M
SWFL1. £150K
SWFL2. £20K
North Caledonian League. £24K
Scottish FA. £0.750M
Scottish Amateur FA. £100K
Scottish Junior FA. £12.75K
Scottish Welfare FA. £12.75K
Scottish Women’s FA. £20K
Scottish Youth FA. £35K
Para ANA. £12.75K

We asked these questions too and will share any answers with you all.

Who did the sums?
How?
Why?
What is the SFA money for?

This has dominated my mailbox and yesterday I had a conversation with a Partick fan this week about part time Alloa FC.

Alloa a league higher are getting more than 3 times what the Jags and other full time teams are getting.

None of it makes sense.

Some clubs seem to be getting a windfall from a fund that was meant to be for survival and others not getting nearly enough.

This story is growing legs and deservedly so.

I hope it all heads for an enquiry one day.

Not your finest hour Rod and Ian.

 

SFA Axe All Our Futures

 

We knew it was coming.
Malky Mackay race storm deepens as he allegedly slurs Malaysian Vincent Tan | South China Morning PostThe SFA announced this week the strategic National Performance Directors role is now toast just two months after Malky “resigned”.

A new Chief Football Officer position has been created and filled by Andy Gould ex head of football development.

He will be tasked with replacing Shelley Kerr (also recently “resigned”).

Does anyone else remember this particular SFA statement I found from when the job was created,

“This is the most important role I believe ever in Scottish Football in terms of football and producing players”.

Back in the olden days, 2011, that was the corporate line as the SFA were acting positively on one of the various self help reports they have since mostly ignored and buried in the now crowded Hampden long grass.

Obviously they decided going the extra mile for the future of our game was all bollocks.

Now next to fall will be the elite academies.

They have all just seen their budgets butchered and the myopia behind all of it is scary.

I’ll look up some statements about the importance of elite academies too but we can already guess some of the hyperbole we were fed back in the day.

 

Scottish Cup Update

Scottish Cup draw in full as Celtic and Rangers are handed away ties - Daily Record

We spoke last week about the Whitehill vs Hill of Beath ineligible player situation and rules that had been seemingly ignored.
Whitehill had got a woolly explanation about a technical decision and a week on are still none the wiser as to why they were not awarded the tie as others had in the past.
The Haws have already played the next round and lost to Keith.
Keith now play Clyde on Tuesday.

Where does that leave Whitehill?

Grumpy and out of the cup I’d say and with no influence at Hampden.

 

Shush.  Its a Secret Process, but We’ll Spin a Press Release and Tell You Why We Were Right All Along

Tuesday sees Killie and St Mirren appeal against points deductions for Covid issues that were and are not unique to them.
We’ll never know anything other than the outcome.
They came to the wrong decision last time and will probably do the same again.
You wonder how our joyous “Yes sir I can Boogie” player dance and party didn’t get a wee secret meeting too or the Scottish youngsters on recent SFA International Duty who came back and had to isolate.
And last weeks discussion about how some clubs seem to have a wee secret immunity pass certainly hit the target with many of you.

Only the clubs together can fix this ongoing systemic nonsense!

Andy’s Big Prize

Can anyone tell me where the temperature in centigrade, according to the BBC, over the next 7 days will be 23, 25, 24, 24, 24, 25, and 25 with wall-to-wall sunshine.
Don’t look at the photo.
A clue is it caused a stooshie in a demitasse earlier in the week but maybe its becoming more.

No.

Definitely more this is maybe indeed be a proverbial straw.

I’ve been told Nicola wasn’t impressed with the trip to begin with and then certainly unimpressed with the out of touch response from the SFA that just made things worse.

We’re used to that kind of attempt at closure from them but she isn’t.

In fact Whitehill should recruit her and so should Killie and St Mirren.

This is a building story and not just about a wee trip.

Its about how a game thinks it can run itself.

If you still have’t worked out the destination a wee clue would be that one club certainly went the extra mile last Monday but with a warm winter climate found their destination was crowded with photographers.

Football is an easy target and should be setting the standards.

A final clue is the indoor scene below at the local Kempinski Hotel which has an indoor ski slope.

Senior couple sunbathing in a deckchair near a snowy ski slope | Stock Images Page | Everypixel

As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

 

SFSA Gambling In Scottish Football Survey Results

In association with Gamble Aware, the SFSA launched a survey to investigate the relationship between gambling and Scottish Football. The survey consisted of questions designed to understand the participants attitude towards gambling in Scottish Football, their level of participation and whether or not they used any measures to avoid impulsive gambling and if so, what these measures were.

The Survey was conducted between 14/11/20 and 05/12/20 and there were 1,070 participants. The survey reached over 100,000 people via twitter, the SFSA newsletter, and other platforms. There were a number of clubs and social media accounts who helped us gather responses.

Findings

Scottish football fans are becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of gambling advertisements and sponsorships in the sport, according to research undertaken by the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA). More than three quarters (78%) of fans think there is too much gambling sponsorship in Scottish football, whilst only 5% felt their club were doing enough to make fans aware of the risks of gambling.

Over half (52%) of respondents reported increased feelings of concern regarding the amount of gambling advertising and sponsorship in Scottish football throughout the last season, indicating a need to ensure that fans are adequately informed about both gambling harms, and support services available.

Fans were surveyed to assess the impact of the second phase of the Bet Regret campaign, designed to raise awareness of impulsive betting in order to encourage moderation and reduce gambling harms. The second phase of the campaign, ‘Tap Out for Time Out’, introduced a new behaviour change technique which encourages people to pause and reconsider before they place a bet they may regret.

The campaign has been shown to have cut through in Scotland, with over half (54%) of SFSA fans reporting familiarity with the tagline ‘Tap Out for Time Out and Avoid Bet Regret’. Over a quarter (28%) of respondents felt that having the option to pause or ‘tap out’ of placing a bet would assist with cutting down on their gambling, whilst almost one in ten (9%) reported using this technology to manage their gambling.

Scottish football fans want clubs and players to do more to support campaigns like ‘Tap Out for Time Out’. Almost half (47%) of respondents feel teams and players need to do more to support campaigns highlighting the risks of gambling and encouraging people to think more about their betting.

A full report of the findings can be found here:

Gambling in Scottish Football Report

 

We would like to thank everyone who completed and helped share the survey.

We would also like to thank Gamble Aware for their support.

 

The National Gambling Treatment Service offers free, confidential help for anyone who is worried about their or someone else’s gambling. If you need help, please call 0808 8020 133 or visit www.begambleaware.org/ngts

 

Andy’s Hogmanay Sting In The Tale (31/12/20) “Mike Says It’s Time to Slay the Fearties”

 

Looking Forwards, Hopefully.

It’s that time of year when the darkest day has passed and a new year is imminent with resolutions aplenty heading for whatever happens to them after they have been broken and dumped.
2020, the year of a global pandemic none of us were prepared for has been strange and difficult for more than just football.
Hopefully with two vaccines now approved it looks like post-pandemic normality might start to break out by early summer.
Things as we all know can and will change but fans in any numbers won’t be back at Scottish grounds till next season.
Not even Gorgeous George the well known Doonhamer will see another live match.

Past Half Time and Bleeding Cash in a Fanless World

I had to check, because it didn’t feel real but 21 out of 38 planned Premiership fixtures have mostly been played and a May 15th finale is still targeted but our darkest hour may yet lie ahead and lockdown and restrictions could still get worse.

Reflection from 3 Wise Men Ahead of the Bells

Most fans tell us they want to see changes in how our game is run and don’t believe it will happen until both the SFA and SPFL start looking outwardly and bring in new talent and a new structure.

Last week Dave a teammate from years ago sent me this quote from Mike Stevenson a truly  inspirational Scot and said you would think Mike was talking just about Scottish football.

See the source image

“Why in a nation that gave birth to many of the ideas that created the modern world, do so many shrink into the shadows and resist the new? This is a time for risk takers, leaders, doers, champions, outliers, creators and innovators.
It’s time to slay the fearties”.

If we combine Mike’s wisdom with six year old and still ignored insights from Barry Hearn, (OBE yesterday for services to Sport) who was an unpaid guest speaker at the Scottish FA Annual Convention.

It was delivered in a brutally honest series of truisms.
He’s never been asked back.
He should be there every bloody year and paid too!

See the source image

“My message to the leaders is wake up and smell the coffee. You need to acknowledge you have a problem. Self-interest among club owners is the issue.  Big clubs want all of the money because that is human nature and they have to be told no but at the same time Scottish Football has to make the cake bigger for all”.

Watch American Experience: Henry Ford | Prime VideoThe final wise man quote is from Henry Ford.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

Post pandemic that is where Neil, Rod and Ian are taking us.
Back on the road to where they maintain their power and have no accountability.

Last week’s classic football style divvy-up of the government bail out that I talked about at length in my 25th December Sting demonstrates there is no desire to do anything other than keep the current self interest models limping along.

We can rightly out Neil, Rod and Ian and they are all culpable but they are just the visible well -paid part of a dysfunctional iceberg.
They will never be advocates for change because that is not in their own self interests.

Barry Hearn summed up the biggest barrier to change being the constant fight club owners have to maximise their own share of our football cake in a world where common good is not valued. They need real leadership and vision.

New Year, New Minister
Mairi Gougeon MSP - gov.scotWe finally got to speak to Joe FitzPatrick in November and liked him. Now the king is dead, long live the queen and we have joined the queue to meet our new minister Mairi Gougeon who has Public Health, Sport and Well Being in a busy enough portfolio for what is deemed a junior position.
The fact that her boss Jeane Freeman is stepping down too at the next election makes it all the more difficult.
In the male dominated world of Scottish football she will come up against both disguised and open misogyny (I hope she speaks and compares notes with Aileen Campbell).
Mairi’s biggest challenge may be dealing with the well practised SFA and SPFL “keep out of our treegyny” (whatever the word for that might be).
We welcome you Mairi, wish you well and will help in any way.

Maybe an alliance between the stakeholders in Scottish football (the fans) and the politicians is the best way forward for our game to forge change.

Scottish football needs cross party political help even if Scottish football doesn’t want to acknowledge that.

 

New Year New Manager

Shelley Kerr steps down as Scotland Women head coach | BT SportWe all heard this week that Shelley Kerr has “stood down” from her job as head coach of the Scottish Women’s team.
Mr Maxwell even commissioned a press release that thanked her for her “contribution in leading the team to historic success in qualifying for the Women’s World Cup etc. etc”.
We can all debate the tactical whys and wherefores after the recent disappointments in the Euro qualifying group and whether Shelley was still our best option and that is fair enough.

But this isn’t about that.

This is not just a change of manager.
It’s actually about how an old fashioned, bloated organisation in trouble is desperately trying to find cash savings and scoring long-term own goals in the process.

This is the same Mr Maxwell and same SFA who press released the recent strangely similar resignation of Malky MacKay and is currently pushing through some fatal budget cuts heading the way of our elite kids academies too. (No press releases yet)
Something serious is going down on the 6th floor at Hampden and both women’s football and our kids are easy sacrifices.
Both should be growth areas.
Both should be investment priorities.

I totally agree with Amy who emailed me and summed it all up as “Clueless, short term-ist and extremely myopic”.
OK, Amy actually said it in more colourful terms but that is what she wanted me to get across.

New Year, Same Old, Same Old

In a year when we watched open mouthed disbelievingly as Neil’s Good Friday Disagreement unfolded.
The soap opera where the Dundee vote on that day changed mysteriously and subsequently lit the blue paper on open club warfare.
You would have hoped that lessons would be learnt.
Fans want and wanted bigger leagues but the SFA, SPFL, and the clubs don’t have to care what their fans think so they don’t ever ask.
After a lot of wasted time and energy and task-forces aplenty, all getting nowhere and with zero fan consultation, it was easy to see the system is dysfunctional then and still is.
Even our SPFL could see that and tried unsuccessfully to get the clubs to back them in a once and for all vote to allow the SPFL to make all subsequent Covid related decisions without having to undertake full club, by club, votes.
That was so sensible but was always going to fail.
The reality is there was little trust between clubs or between clubs and the authorities then and probably less now.

Farce and farcical decisions are still at large and the inherent secrecy of how both the SFA and the SPFL and their JRG joint venture operate makes it all worse.
(The JRG was, I am told, then set up to allow decisions to be made without speaking to the clubs and it seems that either the clubs haven’t quite sussed that, or maybe not been given the chance since to do something about it).

Our fourth estate seem disinterested in the real stuff going on, I’m not sure why.

In 2021 Fans Simply Want Openness, Fairness Consistency and Leadership.

Two examples from my in-tray are worth highlighting.
It is stuff like this that disgruntles us, the bedrock stakeholders.
The first is the SFA and its handling of Hill of Beath playing a banned player against Whitehill Welfare in the Scottish Cup on December 12 and the  second is Neil’s SPFL and the points deductions from Motherwell and Kilmarnock in favour of St Mirren and Hamilton.

Let’s look at each.
There is a lot more info online if you google it.

Whitehill vs. Hill of Beath.
Welfare boss Andrew KiddDecember 12th saw the Haws defeat Whitehill 2-1.
It came to light after the match that Hill of Beath had fielded an ineligible player.
Clear simple and agreed by both teams.
The rules state clubs should be expelled for such breaches and in 2011 both Spartans and East Stirling were.

Somehow Hill of Beath got a slapped wrist with a wet fish and a £2000 suspended fine from the SFA but were allowed to play in the next round.
Whitehill quite rightly feel aggrieved and rightly said the integrity of the Scottish Cup is in question.
They continued,
“The competition rules are very clear. The response from the SFA was unsurprisingly vague, and ambiguous. We were simply told there were exceptional circumstances. What these were we have no idea, as it wasn’t elaborated on. We have asked for further clarification. It has been acknowledged that the player was left out of the weekly suspension list issued by the SFA but again the rules are clear and clubs have overriding responsibility to ensure all players listed are eligible”.

So it looks like the SFA maybe made a mistake with one of their lists, the club didn’t check or maybe did, saw he wasn’t on it, and took a gamble where the player played and the team won.
I could be right or wrong with all of that and the SFA should man up and be open and impartial about their decisions.
This is not about Whitehill or Hill of Beath – its about our game and how it is run for us.

The rules should be followed and in the full view of all interested.

Always.

 

How difficult is that Neil, Rod, Ian?

 

Killie and St Mirren in the Dock

St Mirren & Kilmarnock given 3-0 defeats & £40,000 fines for Covid-19 breaches - BBC SportIn early December Killie were told their postponed game vs. Motherwell and St Mirren’s games vs. Motherwell and Hamilton were forfeited with a 3-0 score for each and 3 points.
Because they had not followed Covid protocols.
They were not the first and will not be the last to fall foul.
Both clubs have now appealed and a secret hearing by an SFA’s judicial panel is slated for
January 14th.
This raises questions that should be answered.
Why is it all in secret when any decision should be based on rules that are public and taken without fear or favour?

Were Killie and St Mirren treated the same way as the other clubs known to have broken Covid restrictions or clubs who will transgress in the next few months?

And a really pertinent question from John in Paisley,

“Would they ever dare take points off either Celtic or Rangers like that? And don’t answer that Andy because they wouldn’t. Not in this Ten in a Row, Glasgow District League Season.

We just want the same laws for all applied fairly for and to all and how they are applied to be a matter of public record”.
That is one change that Ian, Rod, and Neil need to sanction yesterday.

”At Half Time Sit to the Right of Bannon”

Jim McLean's methods at Dundee United explored in BBC documentary - The Courier

Sad news to hear the passing of genuine legend Jim McLean.
Alex Ferguson paid the highest respect naming Jim as his “toughest managerial opponent”.
We’ve all heard wee stories about him, enough to fill a book, but I smile when thinking about steam coming out of his ears when berating Eamonn Bannon each and every half time.

Eamonn was a great player but was thought by Mr McLean to be “too clever for his own good”. He was also said to be too willing to defend himself when being “coached” aka “dressed down” and was nearly always the first McTarget.
The wise pros learned that Jim would finish destroying the Bannon then carry on clockwise round the dressing room until he ran out of time and there was always a rush to get a safe seat out of the firing line.

Have a good and safe Hogmanay and a Happy and safe New Year.

Edinburgh fireworks 2015 Scotland celebrates Hogmanay Happy new year on Make a GIF
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story that needs shared.

Common good has to break out in Scottish Football.

Only the fans can make this happen.

Please ask all your pals to join SFSA and together we can get the ball rolling.

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

 

Andy’s Xmas Sting In The Tale (25/12/20) “Roll Up for Scottish Football’s George Bailey Stakes”

 

Tom Walked Away with $242 but Didn’t Say Why

 

Mrs. Davies Only Needed $17.50

One of the finest scenes in “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes after Potter has created a rush on George Bailey’s bank just as he (Jimmy Stewart) is heading off on honeymoon with his new wife Mary played by Donna Reid.
All his worried shareholders are besieging his office fearful of not getting their money out and reluctantly heading to the evil and corrupt businessman Potter and his offer of 50 cents in the dollar.
TBK Investigates: The Comeuppance of Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life – TBK Magazine
Mary intervenes holding up and waving the newlywed Bailey honeymoon dollar fund to try to stop the bank-run in its tracks.

It was touch and go and in that short scene Frank Capra questions the ethics of business, banking and human relationships in a financially interlinked community.

Genius.

Anyway back to the story and Tom, a grumpy sort had $242 lodged with George and wanted it all back instantly, not in the 60 days as per his account Ts and Cs.
He made a fuss and should have been told to bugger off but was given it all, although to the others in the room he was starting to look more than a little unreasonable against the very fair George and the community he represented, who were all present watching and listening.

its a wonderful life quotes | It's a Wonderful Life GIFs for Every Awkward Holiday Situation. … | Wonderful life movie, Wonderful life quotes, It's a wonderful lifeOthers in the queue were slowly brought round and bought over one by one by George simply asking them how much they needed not how much they had deposited.
He knew them all.
He knew them all well.
He lived in their community with them.
He knew their kids and parents.
He knew their business and businesses too.

Common Good broke out in Bedford Falls that day.

Ed had $300 but only needed $20 as a tide-over.
Mrs. Thompson needed $20 and took that.
Mrs. Davies only needed $17.50 and got a kiss from George for being so sensible and fair minded.

 

They were a community under pressure, worked as a community too and scraped by, just and no more.

 

Just a film and fair enough that’s all it was.

What’s This Got to Do with a Scottish Football Blog at Christmas?

 

The Scottish government in true Santa style allocated 10 million taxpayer pound notes to all football in Scotland, male and female, outside our top division and the National Lottery even threw in an extra £1.35M.

So there had to be some kind of divvy up needed for the £11.35M burning a hole in the SFA’s Xmas Santa Suit.

Rod Petrie steps down as SFA president as health issues force temporary move - Daily Record

Mr Petrie and his very own SFA are said to have come up with the plan I outline below known hence as the “Emergency Funding for Football” and we are told the said allocated funds will hit club bank accounts imminently.

Hard pressed staff at one northern championship club were allegedly moved to tears at the news of £500K coming their way and the Health Minister Jeane Freeman got it mostly right in the press release when she said

Jeane Freeman to quit Holyrood as SNP Health Secretary announces election plan - Daily Record

“Football clubs are at the heart of their communities but have suffered real hardships with Covid restrictions preventing them playing in front of fans. This funding will help to ensure clubs are able to bridge the gap in revenue until spectators are able to return.
This funding will support the entire football pyramid and working in partnership we will support the clubs that have given us so much through this difficult time”.

Rod Petrie, SFA Grand Fromage, got a quote in too to scent mark his SFA on the Government constructed press release rather than tell us anything important.

“This announcement recognises the importance of our national sport at all levels of the senior game and we will work to ensure funding can be accessed by all clubs as efficiently as possible”.

 

(Divisional Funding it was later said would be split evenly between the clubs in each tier and don’t forget there is also a £20 loan fund available for Premiership clubs who are precluded from grants, although we’re not sure why. Clubs say they don’t want more debt at this time).


Rod’s Divvy-Up Plan for the Taxpayers Pound Notes

Total allocations per Sector

Championship. £5M
League 1. £1.5M
League 2. £1M
Tier 5. £1.1M
Tier 6. £0.65M
Tier 7. £0.950M
SWFL1. £150K
SWFL2. £20K
North Caledonian League. £24K
Scottish FA. £0.750M
Scottish Amateur FA. £100K
Scottish Junior FA. £12.75K
Scottish Welfare FA. £12.75K
Scottish Women’s FA. £20K
Scottish Youth FA. £35K
Para ANA. £12.75K

 

Thanks Jeane – But Who Did the Sums?

And How?

And Why?

You are now in Bedford Falls | Passing Time

Where was our George Bailey with his insight into his community?

Who decided on the total amount on the government side and the stipulations?

On the football side who decided Championship sides get more than three times SFL1 teams just one league down?
That is one hell of a difference Rod and how is it fair?
It means Championship clubs get 5 times the amount SFL 2 teams two levels below are allocated?
How is that fair?

The game needs the money urgently and will need more but as in Bedford Falls people have different needs and so do our clubs too.

Was any of this ever factored in?

Can We Have An Explanation of how you have spent our money?

The allocation and planned distribution didn’t just happen, didn’t just magic itself on to a computer and isn’t random in any way.

Can we therefore please be told the whys and wherefores of such an important distribution of public money on behalf of our game?

The clubs want to know, the fans want to know and all taxpayers and voters certainly deserve openness with their money.

All in all  a not unreasonable request and having seen nothing elsewhere about the detail despite all the reportage we’ll now commit to ask the Scottish Government on your behalves.

Why did none of the media coverage ask these questions I hear you thinking aloud?

And why are the SFA getting £750K is another good question?

How will it be used by an organisation who have just had a £10M Euros windfall?

Why also are community clubs in our top league who are “part of the entire football pyramid”  as quoted by the minister in her press release not getting access to any of these grants when they are well-run community enhancing businesses hurting really hard without the fan revenues the minister quotes?

There are so many disconnects.

 

So very, very Scottish Football.

 

An Alternative View, aka the Four Maybes

Maybe the SFA should have allocated the grant cash on specifics and needs given the business uncertainties past, present and future heading our way at speed.

With Tier 4 imminent and no fans back until next season almost a certainty some clubs will soon be back asking for more instead of downsizing in our grave new world.

Maybe now is the time to address the stark realities of a no-fans season for all the clubs from now onwards and to help them address the issues this will bring to the clubs and how the game is run on their behalf.

Maybe trying to protect the status quo is the wrong strategy and has been all along.

Maybe its time for Scottish football to become customer focused rather than just a continuation model for a broken system dominated by self-interest and arcane control by the very few?

 

SFSA Ebenezer Scroggie Awards 2020

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1792 and deceased quite young in 1836 Ebenezer Scroggie was a real person.
He was a cousin of Adam Smith, the Kirkcaldy “Wealth of Nations” writer and economist, not my son Adam Smith who lives in Mexico and who has never had the inclination to have written a treatise on political economy.

Ebenezer Scroggie was a successful Edinburgh merchant and corn dealer which was writ as “meal man” on his grave stone as his epitaph.
In addition to being a “meal man” Ebbie was also said to be a dandy, a philanderer and by all reports all round good guy, worth meeting up with for a few swiftish clarets in one of the Royal Mile hostelries after work.
Then death and interment and that should have been it but years later in a strange twist  Ebenezer Scroggie deceased had his name stolen and vilified for eternity by Charlie Dickens as his new baddie in his play “A Christmas Carol”.
Not out of badness to Scroggies from Kirkcaldy by the Londoner scribe and social commentator but simply because he was said to have misread “meal man” as “mean man” on Ebbie’s worn tombstone.

How an Edinburgh gravestone inspired Ebenezer Scrooge | Edinburgh News

 

Anyway here is our ……

 

Ebenezer Scroggie Award for All Round Good Meal Men

 

A joint award with Two Winners, both as it happens English.

Hearts benefactor James Anderson to give more cash to SPFL after £3.1m deal | Edinburgh News

 

James Anderson for his gift of £3 plus Millions through the SPFL trust and big thanks to Ann Budge for the introduction even if our Neil didn’t originally believe her on a really good Saturday Sportsound programme eons ago in lockdown. That programme really came into its own this summer so well done Richard and team.

See the source imageMarcus Rashford for his inspirational intervention and dogged work on feeding hungry disadvantaged kids during holiday periods.

Marcus would have and should have walked last week’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award but didn’t make the list for editorial reasons.

Instead Aunty Beeb awarded him the “Expert Panel Special Award” (EPSA).
Sounds like a Disney park.

Anyway I was personally amazed at the government U turn to the Rashford pressing game and their subsequent newly-garnered commitment to feed disadvantaged kids during school holidays.

So there are some good guys in football on and off the field and some common good.

 

There are still some Dickensian style Scrooges too – some real Mean Men in and on the edge of our game.

And since it is the season of jolly awards too here we go.

 

Sting in the Tale “Scrooge Mean Men” Awards

This Finally Explains Why Scrooge Is Such A Scrooge In 'A Christmas Carol' | HuffPost

There was only ever one team in the running.

Yes you’ve guessed.
Not Kermit, Piggy or Michael Caine.

Douglas Ross dismissed as "supine" after backing Internal Market Bill - Daily RecordIt was our own Bold Sir Douglas and his Blue Five a side team who did their utmost to stop 22 year old upstart Marcus in his tracks and by doing so helped Boris put to an end Rashford’s campaign to feed hungry kids in the adjoining country just south of ours.
Our government in Holyrood sided with Marcus and agreed and committed to hungry kids being fed.

Lets set the scene as it was back in late October, so long ago, a time when I could even still have a pint in Wee Bennett’s bar when I was officially meant to be walking the whippet.
Multitasking but I digress.

Boris and his team, it can be said, wanted the Labour Parliamentary Motion containing the football upstarts proposal to fail. They needed support from Douglas’s small but bold team of Scottish Conservative Westminster MPs.

Douglas Ross, well known assistant referee girded his loins and those of his bold team of 5 battle-hardened Scottish Westminster MPs.
He personally boldly managed to abstain but his leadership prevailed mightily in the fight to defeat Rashford.

David Duguid, Banff and Buchan, Alister Jack, Dumfries and Galloway, Andrew Bowie, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, John Lamont, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and David Mundell, Dunfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale all did their bit, like my grandfather in the Somme and Ypres, and boldly voted with Boris.

OK in reality what they did was nothing like Pte Robert William Smith doing his bit under fire but in the fight to defeat Marcus, Boris, helped by his bold Scots won the day and triumphantly declared it a mighty victory.

(That is, before he made his U-turn).

But Boris declared that a mighty victory too.

“Not our finest day Andy”, admitted my very blue Scottish Tory pal of 40 plus years from his elevated eyrie in the House of Lords. Always a master of understatement but I’d say genuinely embarrassed at the level of discussion allowed now in his party and rightly so.
But its Christmas and I’ll wish him and everyone else well and we’ll share a beer again in Wee Bennetts soon enough.

 

Have a nice and safe Christmas and as always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story that needs shared.

If I can leave you with all one thought I’d like you to keep and share with anyone who will listen.


Common good has to break out in Scottish Football.

Only the fans can make this happen.

 

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

Santa Clause GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Mr. Goodwin refuses to remember

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

The judge, the jury, even his lawyer is hanging on his every word…

Picture the scene…

It is a high-profile trial.

Resplendent in a wig that he found in a dress up cupboard under the stairs, Judge Doncaster of Piffle Row is presiding. But it is not he who has everyone on the edge of their seats.

Defending him, one Mr. Fitzpatrick of the firm, Buddy, Buddies and Best Buds, is looking askance at the witness box, unable to believe his ears. But it is not he who has the whole courtroom in his grasp.

In the witness box stands, Mr. Goodwin. He is stood standing, still with the expression of the innocent upon his face. It appears a very practiced and well-rehearsed stance.

Mr. Fitzpatrick decides to repeat the question, just in case Mr. Goodwin has not heard… properly…

“Mr. Goodwin,” he begins. “Can we just be clear, on the day in question, you have no recollection over your discussion with the man at the line?”

Mr. Goodwin does not miss a beat. “That is correct.”

“Is it possible, Mr. Goodwin, that the exchange between yourselves was perfectly cordial?” continues Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Mr. Goodwin smiles, like a character from Assassin’s Creed. “Yeah, it could have been.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick looks at his notes, decides not to produce the video evidence as it shows Mr. Goodwin clearly being over exuberant and hopes that his opposite number, prosecuting and friend of the Judge, Mr. Broadknuckles does not either. The Chuckle brother’s forgotten brother seems strangely preoccupied with something and looking across, Mr. Fitzpatrick can see that Mr. Broadknuckles is on his phone.

Mr. Fitzpatrick decides to try and catch Mr. Broadknuckles of the legal firm, Bluster, Bull and Baloney, out. He turns to the judge and says, “I have no further questions at this time, but may have further questions following my learned friend’s cross examination.”

Judge Doncaster looks across at Mr. Broadknuckles. Mr Broadknuckles is flummoxed. He clearly was not paying attention.

He stands and tries to find his notes. There are folders being spilled onto the floor around him as he straightens up and tries to look scary at Mr. Goodwin. It has been a very long time since anyone scared Mr. Goodwin.

“Mr. Goodwin,” he begins. “Can I take you back to the night in question. You were standing next to the man we have identified as the fourth man. You had a chat. What was said?”

Mr. Goodwin, along with everyone else in the room appears confused as he has already answered this. “I cannot remember,” he responds.

“I see,” continues Mr. Broadknuckles. “And when the man we have identified as the man in black approached you, what was said?”

Mr. Goodwin once again along with everyone else in the room appears confused as he has already answered this. “I cannot remember,” he responds.

“I see,” continues Mr. Broadknuckles. “And when the man we have identified as Conor McCarthy did what he did, what did you do?”

Mr. Goodwin for the third time, along with everyone else in the room appears confused as he has already answered this. “I cannot remember,” he responds.

The afternoon stretches out at Mr. Broadknuckles asks about Mr. Goodwin’s weekend, his last game as a player and the Second World War. In tolerably good humour at each question, Mr. Goodwin responds, “I can’t remember.”

At the end of the afternoon, Mr. Broadknuckles, having done what he thought as a deeply forensic cross examination turns to the Judge, and says, “The prosecution rests M’lud.”

The air of confusion does not lift as Judge Doncaster of Piffle Row turns to the accused and reluctantly says, “Mr. Goodwin, you are free to go.”

The jury look on, confused.

They thought it was their job to declare someone innocent or guilty!

As eleven good people and true dragged from the terraces, once again their input has been ignored and the direction of travel more piffle.

Mr. Goodwin smiles as he leaves, realising that his amnesia is beginning to lift…

 

Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a certain Mr. Doncaster has ever been in a dressing up cupboard under any stairs, this is therefore not true, though a certain Mr. Goodwin did appear during the week to have amnesia.

During the week when asked why he had been sent to the stand after St. Mirren had scored to knock Rangers out of the Cup, manager Jim Goodwin responded, “I couldn’t even explain what I’d done because I can’t remember – it was just sheer elation and emotion.”

 

Bailout and thanks

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Over the last week I have read a great deal from people about how this club and that club are close to the brink. Ann Budge has confirmed to Robbie Nielson, apparently, that the financial difficulties shall not affect his player budget. Inverness Caledonian staff allegedly wept with joy when the rescue package was announced.

As for Greenock Morton, is it actually too late?

I wrote last week about the selflessness of David Hopkin in falling on his sword and leaving the club so that it can save money. Little did I realise the extent to which he had gone to support the club itself. According to the interim manager, Anton McElhone, he had paid wages, bonuses and for food for the staff.

It sounds like the act of a man who has given his all to a club or a game to which he feels a very strong affinity.

There is a very real possibility, I have read, that Morton may be the very first casualty of the pandemic. The Tail O’ the Bank no more never made it into a Proclaimers’ song and we must surely try and avoid it ever doing so.

Whilst the financial lifeline being administered by the SFA is more than welcome, once again it is about how the big can access bigger and the wee can get what’s left.

And so, I wonder, how many will fall to the same fate as Morton as fans are beginning to shake and shudder?

Given the close affinity the Rae family have with the club I am somewhat confused over the problems that come with supporting an institution with which the family became closely aligned. Ann Budge has hardly got the same track record but yet seems to be adopting a different approach. Then again, the amount of annual percentages of their disposable income that the Rae family have poured into their local club may dwarf the amount that Ann Budge has provided for Hearts.

It might.

What is, however, glaringly different is that at a time of great need, Budge appeared and led the charge to safety. At the time of great need in Greenock, chairman Crawford Rae appears to have adopted a hermit like approach.

I am able to give insight into the role of Mr. Hopkin because of an interview with Mr. McElhone in the Greenock Telegraph; not the man who is at the head of the club, the Chairman.

It may be wrong to claim it, but the impression given may be, that the family Rae have tired of this albatross and would wish it swept away from their doorstep. Fan led ownership is on the horizon but is some months away – should it be fast tracked to now?

The bailout has clearly been welcome and vitally important, but it has come at a time when there are plenty of other questions being asked. Not amongst them are the legions of people who have been doing similar things to what David Hopkins has done for years.

They have given time, money, resources and effort to keep their clubs afloat for a lot longer than the 18 months at which David Hopkins was at Cappielow. They all have a singular name – fans.

In addressing both the long term and the short term recovery of community assets, with clubs clearly facing undeniable difficulty, what is the Recovery Plan? With the combined intelligence at Hampden and the undeniable army of business and voluntary acumen around the game – why is there not a public call for everyone to pull in the same direction, with a singular vision, even a myopic, monocular vision for debate would help. Once again people are sitting waiting for news and not taking the helm to make it.

I applaud Hopkins and Budge and I believe that Budge has not been taking anything out of the club which makes her as much of a fan volunteer as anyone else. She is also working towards fan ownership too though refuses to just hand it over. She wants to see something tangible ready to take over apparently and I have to say, I find that a good thing.

So, the bailout is a good thing too.

We have to wonder though, at what point does them pesky fans become a good thing too?

December Fan’s Meeting, with Ian Blackford (Summary)

On Friday 18th of December, the SFSA hosted its second Fan’s Zoom Meeting, with guest Ian Blackford MP. The hour-long meeting was constructive and thought provoking and it really highlighted the common understanding that fans bring across our game and the acceptance that something needs to change, particularly with the governance and the need for fan involvement in that process.

Mr Blackford was genuinely concerned and has long been shocked at the way Scottish football is being run. The lack of any desire for input from fans is a constant reminder of why we are doing what we do.
Our chairman Andy Smith poignantly emphasised the fundamental understanding for the need of common good among fans and that despite our disagreements and rivalries, fans know that only through united efforts can we bring about change.

We were able to discuss a wide range of topics within the hour which is a credit to everyone on the call and our host Bill Young for chairing the meeting brilliantly.

Below is a list of topical points that were discussed:

  • Pantomimic end to last season and current state of mistrust.
  • Common good is the focus fans can see but authorities and clubs can’t
  • SFSA Press release regarding the financial problems of clubs in press.
  • Problems of secrecy within Scottish football, particularly JRG which damages its effectiveness and credibility.
  • Problems with communication and trust among Scottish government and football authorities and need for improved relationships, with fans being the catalyst for that.
  • The needs to build on the progress made by the national team but the lack of evidential change.
  • Cuts on youth development being proposed right now and the implications this will have.
  • The desire by clubs to have fans back despite the financial implications with evidenced from the Tier 1 north.
  • The potential damage to season ticket sales next season due to lack of the product sold for this year failing to deliver as promised.
  • A deep seated need for a review into the governance of the game in Scotland.
  • The lack of understanding of fans from the football authorities and lack of desire to engage in any way.
  • Covid restrictions and the possibility for smaller clubs to be covid compliant to get fans being low down on JRG agenda.
  • Need to learn from experience from fans in highland clubs who have had fans back and where 300 is viable.
  • The football authorities lack of dialogue with fans should be a concern to the Scottish government due to the value that fans bring to communities and therefore the country.
  • The improvements within the Woman’s game that needs to be maintained post pandemic.

Andy’s Sting In The Tale (18/12/20) “Victims of Football’s Shortcomings”

Show us the Money Guys – Time is Running Out

Another week another press-fed story from some of the members of the ultra secretive Scottish Football JRG, (the hastily assembled SFA/SPFL entity) in their ongoing but unnecessary wee spat with the Scottish Government.

“The situation is now critical with 3 or 4 clubs scrambling just to cover December wages”.

“The clubs are under pressure like never before”.

“We need urgent answers. Where are the grants promised? How much are we going to get, how and when”?

Clubs had been encouraged by the JRG to expect fans back by now and many had budgeted for a modest and building from October return and the revenues that would have delivered.

The stark reality is apart from the token 300 spectators in clubs lucky enough to be in Tier 1 there has been no return and there seems to be no road map either for more fans in Tier 1 or for any fans at all elsewhere.

 

Even starker is those lucky 300 fans are actually costing Ross County, Inverness CT and Elgin City money every time they play.

See the source image

That is because there are significant extra costs to meet the new match day protocols, and the stark fact that the lucky fans are already season book holders and there are no other possible extra match day revenues.

No Movement on the Desperately Needed Grants

See the source imageThe planned meeting between the SFA/SPFL/JRG and all football clubs outwith the SPFL Premier league didn’t take place.
We are now into Xmas week when things slow down until January.

None of the chairmen I’ve spoken to know how the £10M grant funding will be divvied up between the government, its agent Sports Scotland, the SFA (probably) and the clubs.
There are a lot of clubs from the lower tiers of the SSPFL, the non-league feeders, the juniors, and the women’s game desperate for help and guidance.

Money needed tomorrow by clubs.
Money in place at Holyrood.
System for disbursement needed last week.
System not in place.

And if the grant is simply divvied up with the biggest allocation to the clubs in the top leagues and progressively less as you head downwards is that the fairest way?
How about the elite academies? (see below)

One for the wisdom of Solomon and we haven’t been shown much of that.

There will be winners and losers and this will roll on and on.

 

Reading between the lines

Last week we talked in “Sting” about why Scottish Rugby was awarded more grant funding than Scottish Football.
An ex minister had told us the clash of cultures between how the Scottish Government likes to manage its procedures in public view set against the lack of openness and accountability right through our games administrations would be problematical.

Difficulties were foreseen.

We’re all now one week later, at December pay dates with no cash on its way to clubs in need.

The ex-minister was right.

 

A Question that Won’t Go Away, Jason

See the source imageI live in a Tier 3 area.

I can visit my local busy high street un-masked, past unmasked school kids in the street with no social distancing, shop in the supermarket masked with staff and other shoppers all masked, have a coffee or breakfast on the way home unmasked in a wee airless café.
But I can’t use one of my season tickets outside in the wind while masked and socially distanced in a ground where 300 fans is normal and economically viable.

The JRG Have Let Us Down

Fans should be back at the bottom end in all tiers and The JRG have been far too dominated by thinking about our biggest clubs and the issues that are particular to crowded stadia and far-travelled fans.

See the source imageI don’t think Fans will be back in any numbers this season.

It will be the vaccine that paves the return but what will have changed?

Our Brave New World

How many fans will have lost the habit?
How many fans will be lost to the virus?
How many fans with season books will have lost a full season they paid for and want their money back?
How many fans will have less disposable income?

Lots of questions to those in our game paid to provide leadership.

But a dearth of answers and deafening silence that doesn’t bode well for any of us.

Welcome to the SFSA Ball

Last week we launched a fun wee film showing one fan can’t make the changes needed but many fans can.

We need to unite to bring about the shock that is required.

Here is a wee insight into just what we constantly face on your behalves.

The SFSA Call On Fans To #GetTheBallRolling! | Scottish Football Supporters Association (scottishfsa.org)

As always when we undertake research or any new initiative we share it with the heads of the SFA and The SPFL.
As usual we sent them both our film and press notes.
Again as usual we got no reply from the SFA.
Why would they speak to 75,000 fans?

Neil of the SPFL always replies though and he asked us in as many words why we thought our game needed changes and more fan involvement.

I guess people who are well paid for running our game for us are too busy to consider the views of their stakeholders.

Paul Goodwin of the SFSA wrote back and said as much.

 

Anyway BIG welcome to those of you who saw the wee film and joined this week.
Don’t be lonely and please get your pals to join too.

Welcome to The Free World Of Scottish Football

The Scottish Football Supporters Association is a not for profit member’s society.
It’s run by volunteers who want to see football run for the common good of all rather than the self-interest of the chosen few.

Free Thinking

We’ll ask all the questions that others don’t and won’t or aren’t allowed to.
We don’t make them up though – you do.
The questions and agenda come from you the fans.
I think fans care more than the blazers ever will.

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But it will always be free to be a member.
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For Fans By Fans

Fans in a room will never all agree about everything or sometimes even anything!

But fans can unite and fans also see the bigger picture that we need to take our game beyond the self-interest squabbles that have done so much damage.

It really is that simple.

None of us are currently remunerated or charging day-rate consultancy fees so we don’t burn money and every penny we raise from our sponsors is spent on making stuff happen.

 

 Return to Mulholland Cul De Sac
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This is a really disturbing soap opera with football origins and complications.

The big news is Mr Wolfe, the Lord Advocate will be saying sorry on our behalves.

Why Andy?

Because James Mulholland the previous Lord Advocate got promoted and is now a judge and no longer head of the Crown Office so someone else is dealing with previous screw-ups.

Why?

See the source imageBecause Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark of Duff and Phelps administrators brought in to Rangers in 2012 took a claim against both Police Scotland and the Crown Office when James Mulholland was the boss there like Mr Wolffe is now.

Payments are Mounting Up

Police Scotland agreed an amount and settled last month while at the same time denying doing anything wrong.

Yesterday the Crown Office agreed to amounts said to be in the
£Millions for each claimant but undisclosed.

 

Just the Start of up to £80M Compo and Costs

The 2012 demise of the Rangers financial problems induced gravy-train queue of people lining up to claim compensation against Police Scotland and the Crown Office is only just started.

Why is this not all out in the open?

What will the final cost to you and me be?

Where does the money come from?

All good questions with no answers – just think what this £80M could do for our game right now.

£80 Million Pound Notes!

Are the Kids Going to be Covid Victims?
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I’ve been speaking with some very worried people in youth football this week about the unceremonious SFA dumping of highly rated Malky MacKay and what his absence and lack of protection will mean for the kids game in Scotland.
In these financially challenged times the costs of funding elite academies might just become more than Mr Petrie and Mr Maxwell will sanction.
Let’s be blunt.
If nothing changes soon the kids and the elite dreams are toast.


Time For Some Fresh Thinking?

The £8-10m windfall from our welcome qualification for the Euros will have many claims on it already.

I read somewhere that the players have been allocated around £3Million as their share.

I would have played for Scotland for free.

Is there maybe something the players can do to help our elite youngsters – maybe as a loan till the SFA revert to business as usual and repays them?
Andy Robertson and Marcus Rashford have shown that footballers are not against doing their bit.

And if the players take less from their pot could that be a catalyst for other well paid Scottish Football people to take less too – for the common good?

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Marcus You Just Don’t Have the Personality!

Not well loved by the Daily Mail for not just investing in property but for having made their blue friends and patrons U-turn twice and finally agree that hungry kids should be fed.
Its now official that Mr Rashford won’t be on the list for us to vote as BBC Sports Personality of the Year because they know he is too popular with the real people, the fans.

He will instead be awarded some special award so that Lewis Hamilton can finally win the big gong.

I wonder our six will be glued to the telly as it unfolds.

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For those who are new our six are bold (Sir) Douglas Ross who boldly abstained in true Bold Sir Robin style from the vote and his 5 Scottish conservative MPs who boldly also agreed with their party whips and voted against Marcus and his outrageous plans.

See the source imageI hope they are all embarrassed.

Just while we are celebrating heroes.

 

Who Does Gary Neville Think He is?

He is currently talking real sense about the need for changes across English Football with fan involvement and a football ombudsman.
He’s a visionary.
The kind we need.

He’s also cleaning up the PFA whose well-paid chairman is moving on soon.
I wish he was rattling the cages up here too.

We will summarise what Gary and his pals are up to and make sure the right eyes and ears in the Scottish Government are eyed and eared.

 

Cup Final

Sunday sees the Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Celtic on council telly at 2.15pm.

At lockdown Celtic were awarded the league based on points and goals and had the same criteria been used to call the cup too Hearts would have been awarded the cup with Celtic runners up.

They both made the final.
Good luck to both too I hope we get a great game.

 

Shares

Jim from Clydebank asked me to explain the difference between Club 1872 buying existing shares from a current shareholder or as new shares issued by the club.
Well nothing is simple Jim but here is what Dave my lawyer told me to say.

Buying shares from an existing shareholder gives him or her the money and nothing to the company.
Buying new shares from the company gives the company the money.

I guess you pays your money and makes your choice.

 

Vale Loons Scale New Heights

Princess Royal Park is a cracking place to play and watch football and some Vale fans were in the news this week when several local fans brought their ladders along to see the match.
Estimated to be ten or so fans and one per ladder.
Fit like guys.
You’d need to be fit to watch a game perched on a rung.

It caused a stooshie too and ladder access in Tier 2 has been since been declared unacceptable

 

Not a good week for Scott Booth’s Glasgow City Girls
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A drubbing against Rangers on Sunday and then Sparta Prague walked away with a 1-0 win.

I watched it all free on on BBC Alba and not long after losing a soft goal the equalising strike from Tyler Toland was as sweet as you’ll ever see.

Should have counted.
Ref called it wrong.
Changed the outcome too.

It was never our night and claims of spitting and a missed penalty when it was too late completed a disappointing evening.

 

Stop Press 

 

Goodbye Joe You Gotta Go

Joe FitzPatrick: Scotland's public health minister quits after drug-related deaths rise for sixth year | The Independent

Our Minister Joe FitzPatrick resigned late Friday, aka sacked according to the press for some disturbing fatality figures and other stuff early this week and has been swiftly replaced by Angela Constance although sport looks not to be part of Angela’s portfolio as she will be the Drugs Policy Minister, a new position.

Although predicted for a few days it all happened very quickly to prevent a likely confidence vote.

No word about who runs football meantime.
It may be that the soon to be retiring Health Cabinet Minister, Jeanne Freeman may pick up sport and sport related temporarily it may be a chance for a junior minister as yet unknown.
At a time of a Pandemic sport is never going to be the priority in a Health Teams portfolio.

Particularly when Sport and Football in particular has never had good relationships with the government due to football’s historic strategy and policy of keeping everyone out of their tree, especially fans and government.

 

As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.

 

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

SFSA Statement (18/12/20) “FANS GROUP CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION TO HELP CLUBS”

FANS GROUP CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION TO HELP CLUBS

 

Following media reports that second-tier professional clubs in Scotland are among those facing serious financial concerns in the face of COVID pressures, the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) is pressing for the development of a Scottish Football Recovery Plan as soon as possible.

 

CEO Paul Goodwin said: “Scottish football at all levels faces both an immediate pandemic crisis, and the huge long-term task of rebuilding the game. If Championship clubs are in trouble, as is being reported, we can be sure that smaller ones are too.

 

“We believe that fans, who are the chief paying customers for most clubs, have a significant role to play in addressing both the short-term and long-term challenges in our game.

 

“While money from the Scottish Government and from private benefactors is welcome, the sums involved need to be spread widely, and the undeniable fact is that more resources are clearly required.

 

“What we surely need right now is a proper Recovery Plan for the game, and for the football authorities to bring ourselves and others with commercial experience round the table to look at what more can be done.

 

The SFSA is rapidly heading towards 100,000 individual and affiliate members following the launch of its #GetTheBallRolling campaign last week. It will be announcing plans for an independent, supporter-led review of Scottish football in 2021.

 

“In the meantime, the time for action and for pulling together has never been greater,” says Paul Goodwin. “Football is our national game, and a huge community asset. We have to do everything possible to ensure its future.”