4th May 2016: The SFSA, Scotland’s first independent national football supporters’ organization, which has achieved over 64,000 members in just one year, has announced a Fans Awards initiative that will see Scottish football fans recognise the best and worst in the beautiful game this season.
The first ever “Fans Awards” are being initiated on behalf of SFSA by multi-award winning advertising creative, Gerry Farrell Ink.
Simon Barrow, chair of the SFSA, said: “In a very short period of time our membership has grown dramatically and it seemed only appropriate that we should give supporters across Scotland the chance to have their say on the big talking points for season 2015-16.
“Oddly, nobody has ever organised anything like the Fans’ Awards before. We also want to find the ‘Fan or the Year’, and we are asking supporters to contact us now with nominations for a fan who really goes that extra mile to support their club.”
The award categories include:
Further information can be found by visiting the SFSA website at www.scottishfsa.org.
Paul Goodwin, co-founder and coordinator of SFSA, added: “We have seen what a huge success our colleagues south of the border in the Football Supporters Federation have had with their annual fans’ award event so it only seems appropriate that we start to generate that enthusiasm in Scotland, too. The categories for the first ever Scottish Fans’ Awards will be both fun and serious with the supporters’ votes for best referee sure to be one of the talking points!”
Broadcaster, journalist and St Johnstone fan Stuart Cosgrove will chair the judging panel.
Fans are being asked for nominations across a range of categories from 4th May until 21st May and an event will be held in Glasgow on 29th of May. The idea is that it will tour the country in subsequent years. A more detailed announcement of the Glasgow event will be made shortly.
For further information on the SFSA and the National Fans Awards, please contact Paul Goodwin on 07702-252519 or Simon Barrow on 07850-120413.
Scottish football needs and deserves a future. As a movement of some 50,000 fans (and growing) the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) believes that it really is possible to renew, reform and reclaim the game. But the engine of that transformation has to be those who love and follow the game. That is what this Fans’ Manifesto is all about.
In 2015 we asked football supporters across Scotland what they wanted to see for the future. We got an amazing 10,000 responses. Among the mass of ideas and comments there were aspirations large and small. In this document we have distilled some of the biggest ones, and combined them with ideas that have now been in circulation – buttressed by a number of other surveys – for some time.
This Manifesto contains nine key pointers towards the future of football game in Scotland. It is intended not as an end, but as the beginning of a renewed national conversation that needs to reach out well beyond the established boundaries if it is going to bring credible action.
Edinburgh North and Leith MP Deidre Brock has sent a message of support to the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) ahead of what the group describes as “dignified and responsible protests” planned for the controversial Scotland v Qatar international challenge match tomorrow night.
The new Member of Parliament, whose constituency include the catchment area for the Easter Road stadium, says: “As Scotland gets ready to line up against Qatar in a friendly, I have real concerns about the appalling conditions facing workers preparing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“Hundreds of workers have died already and there’s still a long way to go yet. Scotland’s supporters will be using Friday’s game to highlight their concerns about this and they have my full backing. Their voices need to be heard and responded to by the football authorities and by government.”
The SFSA is working with the Scottish TUC and the Playfair Qatar campaign to ensure that the government and the football authorities get a clear message that football fans want action to stop the deaths and abuse of rights in Qatar.
“To date 1,400 workers have died in Qatar since it was give the 2022 hosting rights. Many more have been injured and at the current rate 4,000 may die before the World Cup begins. That is absolutely unacceptable, and many Scottish fans will be making their rejection of this abuse of the game clear on Friday,” said Scottish Football Supporters Association spokesperson Simon Barrow.
“We are delighted to have the support of local MPs, the First Minister and many thousands of ordinary people in speaking out against exploitation in football,” he added.
The Scottish Football Supporters Association was launched in April 2015 and is drawing together the widest and most representative cross section of supporters and fans’ groups Scotland has ever seen. It has received the backing of former Scotland captain Gary McAllister and former First Minister Henry McLeish.
FURTHER COMMENT & INFORMATION:
1. Contact: Simon Barrow, Scottish Football Supporters’ Association: 07850 120413. firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Supporters will hand out leaflets to other fans at the West Stand of the Easter Road Stadium at 7pm before the Scotland v Qatar game.
3. There will be campaign photos and interviews at 5pm at the Leith Dockers Club, 17 Academy Street EH6 7EE, after leafleting of the local area from 4pm.
AND SO the battle rages on. It’s been dragging on for several days, maybe even weeks, who knows? There are still has a number of top-flight fixtures to play, as well as a number of play-off ties to decide who will be playing their league football in which tier of Scottish football next season.
This was the same prospect clubs were faced with last season, too, mind. Last season, it was Hibs who ‘defied’ SPFL league bosses and allowed their season ticket holders to attend the home leg of their play-off tie for free, rather than pay the admittance fee that would help line the coffers of the League authority.
This year it is both Rangers and Motherwell who have stated their intentions publicly to go against the League’s wishes and give their loyal, already paid enough, season ticket holders the chance to go to the home legs of their respective play-off ties for free.
This seems to have angered the authorities, who are yet to show any signs of backing down in their argument that each of these clubs, and the same goes for every club in Scotland, must charge fans to attend the play-off matches as the gate receipts from these matches are vital to help fund the game across the country.
However, last year Hibs let their fans in for free and were not punished, so how can the League bosses deem it fair to punish clubs this time around? The fact of the matter is that they can’t and I’m almost certain that a court of appeal would see it this way.
It feels as if, once again, the League bosses are taking the fans for granted and treating them as a cash cow that should be milked at every opportunity. This is only the latest in a string of events that has seen fans pay over the odds for football matches in Scotland.
Our game continues to be tainted by these so-called guardians of the sport, who have shown less consistency than a McDonalds sausage and egg McMuffin. Punishments are handed out to clubs and players for one offence, but not handed out to others for a very similar offence. Understandably this often causes fan fury.
The SPFL have pulled out their big guns on the matter, with League chairman Ralph Topping getting involved, saying that the ‘rule book is not a pick and mix’. Yet, it was last year on this matter. And it has been for several years when it has come to disciplinary sanctions against clubs and players.
This latest farce has only strengthened the calls for change to occur at the League management level. For too long have the governing body have taken fans for granted, as well as the clubs.
They continue to push their rulebooks in the faces of people and institutions that they are supposed to be helping reap the benefits of our game, and they repeatedly pick and mix with their Holy Grail.
Clubs are trying their best to make football matches easily accessible and enjoyable for their loyal supporters, but the football bosses above them are not making it easy.
How much longer will it be allowed to go on? It’s not right that it’s gone on for as long as it has. Hopefully it won’t go on beyond the end of this season. Hopefully.
EARLIER this week, the Glasgow Cup Final was contested at Hampden between Celtic Under-17s and Rangers Under-17s, with the young Bhoys running out winners following a 2-0 win.
This match is potentially a great spectacle of the up-and-coming talent for each of these massively-supported Glasgow giants. Both Ronny Deila and Stuart McCall were in attendance earmarking some stars for the future. However a large majority of fans were forced to miss out on the tie as the game was only open to school children and their parents, with fan trouble in the past being cited as the reason for this.
The trouble which has been caused between ‘fans’ in the past has not been caused by fans. It has been caused by troublemakers. It is not fair to tar every football supporter with the same brush. If that continues to happen, where will it all end?
Of course, it is in UEFA and FIFA rules that fan trouble can cause full or partial closure of stadiums, but as these have shown on the international stage, in places like Russia, they don’t really work as a method of punishment.
More needs to be done to identify the troublemakers and punish them, and only them, rather than give everyone the same sentence.
How this could be done? I’m no security expert, but more CCTV and/or police presence at games which are known to give an environment to ‘fan trouble,’ seems to be the obvious answer to solve this problem.
Clubs and league bosses know which games might have off the field trouble, yet the only thing which has been done to counter it is partial or full closure of stadiums.
I would argue that more action is needed to punish the few, not the thousands.
Looking at Russia, Italy and occasionally Spain, players are often recipients of racial abuse from the troublemaking ‘fans’. I would argue that these aren’t real fans. Many of the people who attend the games and are found guilty of the racist remarks towards players are members of the often political, ‘Ultra’ groups. Some clubs have been heavily fined and/or incurred stadium closures, but it simply isn’t getting results.
One instance which springs to mind is in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg. The club have been punished on numerous occasions by UEFA for racial abuse from fans, yet this keeps happening.
League bosses, football bosses, security bosses, even football fans need to do more to identify the individual culprits who are tarnishing the reputation of the club for the majority of the fans.
It would be a lengthy and expensive process to get security measures up to scratch, but surely it would be worth it in the long run?
As I mentioned before, I’m not a security expert, but surely some form of CCTV could be implemented in stadiums for the cost of a few thousand pounds? This may prevent the need for stadium closures — a policy that punishes the majority of fans for the reprehensible actions of the few. It may also save clubs tens of thousands of pounds in fines from football authorities.
The troublemakers are not only punishing their club, they are also punishing the fans who attend games for the love of the club and the sport.
The people who love the game have to help the people who have been charged with protecting it. This is the best course of action for the future and everyone needs to come together and work as one to rid our game of the troublemakers.
We don’t want empty stadiums at showcase events like the Glasgow Cup Final. The stadiums should be as full as they can be to help the young players adjust to what it is like playing in front of a big crowd. These events should also be open to all fans so the fans can get more pleasure from supporting their team.
Events like the Glasgow Cup Final should be open to everyone. The fans of the competing teams should be allowed into the National Stadium for the match. It lets them form a bond with players who they can potentially still see in 10 years’ time. We want people in a decade’s time to be able to say: ‘I saw him play in the Glasgow Cup Final in 2015. Since then I knew he’d be a star.’
Fans won’t be able to say that if the stadiums are closed. Open the stadiums, increase security, help each other out and get rid of the troublemakers. That way everyone wins, including the game.
Paul Goodwin from The Scottish Football Supporters Association said: “We asked the Scottish FA to review its pricing for this year’s Scottish Cup Final so we welcome the decision. This match, The Family Final, will be the biggest of the year for fans of ICT and Falkirk and reducing the prices for it will hopefully encourage as many supporters of both teams, as well as neutrals, to attend.”
For further information please contact Paul Goodwin on 07702-252519
FOLLOWING on from a previous piece about the league split, the post-split fixtures were announced last week, as well as the revelation that the final game of the Championship season — Hearts vs Rangers — was to be played on the Sunday due to television coverage, after the rest of the Championship sides had played on the Saturday.
Now that’s only half of the scheduling/fixture calamity.
Thankfully, the SPFL have made a U-turn and decided that it would be in the best interests of the clubs, fans, players and anyone else involved, if the Hearts vs Rangers match was played at the same time as the rest of the Championship matches on the final day.
It has always been the case that teams should be playing at the same time on the final day of the season. It adds to the drama of the sport. Fans get more excited, more exhausted, more emotional and more involved with Scottish football when other teams are doing what they need to, spurring on your own team to do what they need to.
Fair enough, that Hearts have already won the Championship, so there would be no Helicopter Saturday to decide where the trophy goes, but Hibs and Rangers are both competing for the coveted second-place spot to have the best possible chance to get promoted back to the Premiership.
The fact that a Sunday match between Hearts and Rangers was even considered was shocking. It just wouldn’t be right if Rangers could go into their match with Hearts a day after Hibs had played, knowing what they need to do.
It is so much better being in a stadium, or at home, hearing about goals coming through from other stadiums that affect your team.
It gets the fans to spur on their team if it’s needed, or lets the team know when there is less pressure on them. The atmosphere changes drastically and the teams feed off it.
Stadiums in Scotland are often full of empty seats, but on the final day of the season, fans turn out in numbers to fill the stadium and get behind their team. Hypothetically, if Hibs were to lose on the Saturday and Rangers were even just one point clear going into their final game, there isn’t much point of fans spending their money to travel to the game and fill the stadium if they know that they have already secured second place.
I could go on and on about how wrong a decision it was to have a game being played at a different time to the rest of the league, but thankfully, it has been amended. Once again, bravo!
However as I mentioned that was only half the story.
It is not only the final game of the season which is ludicrous to me. Celtic will not play again on a Saturday this season, Motherwell will play their eighth match of the season on a Friday night, as well as a whole host of other Friday and Sunday fixtures.
Now, no one enjoys Friday night fixtures, well no one that I know. Some people are up at 6am, even before then, for work. Then they have their 8-12 hour shift and then they get home at, maybe, 6pm and they 1) don’t have the time to get to the match or 2) they simply don’t have the energy.
Also, the final day of the Premiership season is Sunday 24 May, with games kicking off at 12:30pm. One of the matches is Celtic vs Inverness Caley Thistle. 12:30pm kick-off, on a Sunday, for the final day of the season? Are you having a laugh? Especially when the ICT fans were dragged down to Hampden for a lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Cup Semi Final.
One doesn’t have to be a brainiac on the level of Stephen Hawking to work out that this is nonsense. You’d need to be on the road from about 9am and many people will have a drink on their Saturday night, so it won’t be possible for them to drive legally to the match. That isn’t even mentioning potential church goers and/or people who enjoy their lie-in on a Sunday.
It just seems as if the fixture schedulers have completely made error after error when it has come to fixture scheduling over the course of the entire season.
Rangers have played a match on every day of the week this term — even Tuesdays and Thursdays. I make reference to Rangers as I seen this on twitter and checked it out. I simply don’t have the time to look through every one of the 42 clubs and check their fixtures to see which days they’ve played on.
Feel free to look at your clubs league fixtures and see what days they have played on this season, and remember how it has been inconvenient it sometimes was for you to attend the match.
Football is traditionally a Saturday thing, occasionally a mid-week. But far too often there are start-of-the-week and not-quite-end-of-the-week fixtures. We see this on TV, with games on every day of the week.
European mid-week games often sell-out as they can be once in a lifetime experiences. Whereas games against familiar league opposition are generally played in half-empty stadiums. I would argue that this is at least partially due to the fact that fans will be able to see that same fixture again in a month or so.
Other articles/blogs have called for a better restructuring of the leagues, so I won’t go into that. As I’ve rambled on a bit here, I’ll begin to close off.
Just think about which nights your team has played on this season, and in previous seasons. Has it been convenient for you to go to the game?
I’ve heard how one man and his son were season ticket holders at a club and one day his son simply said ‘Dad, do we need to go to the match today?’
On one hand the dad was a bit gutted that his son didn’t really want to go see the match, but on the other he was relieved. This was in the winter but for football mad child to say to his dad that he didn’t really want to go and stand in the cold and rain to watch his team play is sad.
7:45pm kick-offs are not convenient for anyone. If the younger generation of fans are already beginning to drag their heels about going to matches, who will fill our stadiums in 10 years’ time? Who will keep our clubs financially sustainable?
As we all know, the SPFL are supposed to safeguard our clubs. Just now, with fixture scheduling like this, not enough is being done to fulfil this task.
For a new organisation it is always going to be difficult from a standing start to make an impact on the game. Launched with much goodwill and excitement less than a fortnight ago, it was always going to take us time to get established and to build our credibility.
It was encouraging that we had enough fans following us from Inverness Caley Thistle and Falkirk that we were able to listen to them and then take those views onboard.
Further encouragement and acknowledgement of that input (before decisions were being made) came in the shape of an email from Stewart Regan CEO of the SFA who thanked us for the input. Of course there are massive mountains to climb before fan engagement can been seen as an automatic process before decisions are made at Hampden; but at least this “one small step” moment for fans shows that there is an opportunity to change the excepted normal conventions of what is accepted as to how the game is run.
A meeting will be scheduled with both the SPFL and the SFA CEO’s in the coming weeks and we will report back to our members on these discussions.
SCOTTISH FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS ASSOCIATION URGES SCOTTISH FA TO MAKE THIS SEASON’S CUP FINAL THE BEST EVER
Fans of Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle (ICT) are urging the Scottish FA to fairly price the Scottish Cup Final to encourage fans of both clubs and neutrals to make it a sell-out crowd for the big day. Their calls have been backed by the recently formed Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA).
The match, already being dubbed ‘The Family Final’ and ‘The Friendly Final’ by fans across the country, will see ICT compete in its first ever Scottish Cup final and Falkirk’s first since 2009.
The SFSA was formed this month (April) with the backing of former Scotland captain Gary McAllister and former First Minister Henry McLeish and is Scotland’s only independent football supporters’ organisation.
Brain Guthrie, Chair of the Bairns Trust said “We think it is essential that this game is priced to appeal to families and neutral supporters who will be drawn to watch this fantastic occasion. We also want to ensure that the policing and stewarding is appropriate to the occasion and have asked the SFSA to have raise our concerns about the costs of catering at Hampden Parktoo. This match has the potential to be a wonderful day out for everyone and making it the best fan experience is at the heart of that.”
Paul Goodwin of the SFSA said “Discussions over the pricing, venue and activities around the forthcoming Scottish Cup Final are scheduled to take place at Hampden Park on Thursday (23 April). Ahead of that meeting the SFSA has been contacted by Supporters Groups in Falkirk and Inverness and by individual fans of both clubs asking us to ensure that their views are conveyed to the SFA ahead of any decisions being made. We know that this Cup Final has the potential to be one of the best both on and off the park and would urge the Scottish FA to make access to it as appealing to all fans who want to be there on the flagship match of the season.
“It strikes us that it is not only sensible but desirable that the Supporters views on everything surrounding such an important and exciting game are heard. We are awaiting confirmation of meetings with both the SFA and the SPFL to ensure that going forward there is a regular dialogue and acceptance of the principle for fans being engaged in decisions that directly affect them. In the meantime we have sent a summary of the fans views to be reviewed by the SFA ahead of the Cup Final Planning meeting. Just as the Players, Managers and Coaches having official representation it is time for fans of all clubs to have that formal recognition through our national football bodies.”
Until now Scotland had been the only football nation in Europe not to have an independent fans’ body and that has meant that Fans have not been properly represented at Hampden Park.
For further information on The SFSA please contact Paul Goodwin on 07702-252519 or Simon Barrow on 07850-120413.
Guest blog by David Farrell
£27.50. Thatcher’s Britain in 1986 and I had made it. My first football contract at Oxford United and I was on the glorious YTS programme that would spawn a generation of striking miners, and kids whom after two years went from being a statistical reminder of a world that didn’t care, to a nobody. But hey, the official unemployment figures were going down.
Massaged by huge numbers of teenagers leaving school and going straight into training programmes that were neither suitable, nor sufficient. But I was different and I was also very lucky because at least I was training to be a professional footballer, doing something I loved. I had a two-year contract, one that both the club and I had to honour, because that’s the way it’s supposed to be isn’t it?
There was one tiny detail that I had to keep a secret from the other trainees. I had been lucky enough to have been offered a YTS contract for Motherwell, but their offer came with a caveat that included a weekly payment of £12.50 for expenses, a provision of the YTS scheme that actually meant Maggie was bumping up my wages to £40 a week. Now Oxford United had made it very clear they were keen to sign me and during our long, drawn out protracted negotiations (consisting of a very amicable five-minute telephone call and me shouting through to the other room to my dad) it was made clear I could have the extra £12.50.
“It’s up to you son,” was Dad’s reply.
And that was it. Oxford matched Motherwell’s offer of £40 a week and I was to become the highest paid first year trainee in the club’s history. You should have heard the fanfare in my head. Only problem was, could I keep my mouth shut long enough to make sure I protected my little expenses envelope every Friday?
It was given to me in a more covert operation than a Mafia hit, because if I didn’t keep shtoom, it was made clear to me I would lose it, as there would have been turmoil among the trainees who were all getting a wee bit less than me. Of course I could do it. I was 16 and I was learning at a very young age, about what football was like.
No one ever talks about their contract or the individual deal they have struck. You negotiate your own deal until both yourself, and very importantly the club, are happy. Don’t ever forget, no player ever held a gun to the head of a football club Chairman to make them sign on the dotted line or offer that lucrative contract the club can barely afford (well with the possible exception of the much sought after captain of Medellin United). It’s an unwritten dressing room rule — never discuss your personal terms with your team mates — contracts are sacred and any extras you can negotiate are kept within the confines of your head.
That Jackie McNamara’s contract details were ever made public, will be much more a source of frustration and disappointment to him, than the revealing of a clause entitling him to a percentage of any transfer fees. Indeed, looking beyond the morality of the issue and seeing it purely from a business point of view, you have to admire the intuition and foresight of him (or his agent) to recognise the potential in negotiating such a clause. However, the morality of whoever leaked the information to all and sundry, must be seriously called into question.
Let me state before we go any further that is the NOT the sort of deal that, as far as I am aware, is commonplace in Scottish football. I have heard of some high profile managers in England on my travels who have had some sort of remuneration clause regarding transfers, put in the contract, but in Scotland I would say it is something of a rarity.
Whether you agree with the individual clause or not, it doesn’t matter. The manager and the club struck a deal they were both happy with. It was a win-win situation for the club. The manager gets a sweetener for developing players good enough to be sold on at a huge profit and the club fills its coffers.
However I’m not sure the club foresaw the backlash, when the news of the clause was leaked.
I can understand the fans’ perception that it could bring about a conflict of interest, but does anyone really think that Jackie would have been thinking about personal gain when the club was negotiating with Celtic about selling Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong? Do they think he would be pushing the club to sell because he was to make a few quid from it?
From a moral point of view, there are nagging doubts that may make the whole thing not quite ‘sit right’ from a fans point of view. But what it also does is highlight the fickle nature of the football fan. Three months ago, Jackie was the best thing since the Arabs found oil. An unfortunate turn of results on the back of the sale of the two best players (for considerable money) AND the incredible run of four games in a row against the best team in the country, has turned the average United fan from being understanding of the situation to questioning it.
Would this have been the case had the team continued on its good run pre-January? Somehow, I think there would have been a significant broom and a rather large carpet up Dundee way.
I’m a football supporter myself and it’s important to differentiate between the two types of fan. The ‘supporter,’ by the very definition of the word, supports his or her team and club, through thick and thin. Supporting the manager and the team through good times and bad, not changing at the first sign of adversity or the revelation of an unusual clause in a contract.
That unswerving dedication and devotion to the club and it’s players. The passion will occasionally spill over into the odd screaming rant, but in the main, there is a controlled determination to help the club be as good as it can. In Scotland I would say this describes the majority of people who follow their team up and down the country, through all types of weather AND adversity.
The ‘fan’, however, can be a little different. The very word itself is short for FANATIC. A word that, to me, conjures up all manner of extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm for a cause, and rarely stops to get on the rational bus. Maybe some of the ‘fans’ now starting to make a contractual issue of what I am certain would have been no more than a flea in the ointment had the club continued to in matches, could take a step back and look at the bigger picture; the team, the club, the financial reality and the future, the team can start getting back to making headlines ON the pitch.
One thing there can be no question of is that Jackie McNamara is at a crossroads in his Dundee United managerial career. From what I have seen on social media, the newspapers and from talking to some of the Tangerine collective, they are split right down the middle.
Whether they decide to react in a supportive or in a fanatical manner, could well decide if Jackie remains at Tannadice beyond the end of this season. What you should remember, though, is that three indifferent months, on the back of losing your two best players and a clause in a managerial contract, does not make him any less capable than he was before. Very often, when it comes to football management, it can be better the devil you know. There are many, many clubs’ ‘fans’ who will be able to vouch for that.
Finally… as I’ve said I’m a football supporter (and occasional fanatic) myself. I’ve followed my team through good and not so good. Supporters are the lifeblood of the game and they are being taken for granted, rather than being treated as an essential. Luckily there are people out there who are determined to do something about that.
In my capacity of media whore and ex-professional footballer, I have been approached by the Scottish Football Supporters Association, to be a consultant on a voluntary basis on an Advisory Panel to see if we can give the supporters a greater voice and more prominent position in the game. The Chairman, Paul Goodwin, has worked closely with many clubs over the years regarding fan ownership and, has indeed been instrumental in the formation of highly influential supporters groups at clubs such as Hearts, Dunfermline and Rangers. It’s time that not only do the Supporters have a voice, but that they are heard. Hopefully I can help in some small way to working towards that.
The views expressed in this article are views expressed by David and not those of the SFSA.
All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell.
THE finale of Scottish football is fast approaching and almost all competitiveness in each of the leagues, well at least at the top end, is gone.
Celtic are comfortably clear in the Premiership now, with Hearts having secured the Championship title weeks ago and last weekend, Albion Rovers secured the League Two title with their win over Clyde.
However, League One is shaping up to have an exciting climax to their campaign. Stranraer, Morton and Forfar are all gunning for the top spot, with Brechin almost guaranteed to take the final play-off spot.
Stranraer vs Morton could quite easily be the title decider this coming weekend. A Stranraer win would rule out Morton’s title bid and take it to the final day of the season, assuming Forfar win their game against Dunfermline.
Aside from the title permutations at the top end of each league, there are the matters of the play-offs. Starting with the Championship (as there is no promotion play-off in the Premiership), Rangers and Hibernian have safely secured their play-off spot and now just have to battle it out for the coveted second-place position. Queen of the South are almost certain to secure the final play-off spot, as Falkirk look to focus on the Scottish Cup Final.
In League One, at the top, the play-off contenders all depend on who is going to guarantee their promotion by winning the league. The two runners-up will have to go through the play-offs along with Brechin City, unless there is a drastic change of fortunes for The City.
League Two has two of its play-off slots decided, with Queens Park and Arbroath mathematically safe from their rivals. However, fourth place in the league is up for grabs, with East Fife, Elgin City, Annan Athletic, Berwick Rangers, East Stirling and Clyde all, technically, in with a shout. As there are so many teams involved in the race for fourth, they do meet before the end of the season so, even after this weekend, several teams may be ruled out.
However, it is at the bottom of each of the leagues where there is still plenty to play for. St Mirren are effectively relegated, barring a miracle. But Motherwell and Ross County are desperate to avoid the relegation play-off match, and are showing form which could drag both Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle into the mix.
With five matches still to play in the Premiership, anything could happen at this stage of the season, especially considering each of these games will be played against each of the other sides in the bottom six of the table.
Then in the Championship, Livingston are refusing to be relegated and Alloa and Cowdenbeath are still struggling to free themselves from the shadow of Mark Burchill’s side. There are only two games left for each of these sides to decide their fate and the Alloa vs Cowdenbeath match on the final game of the season looks as if it could be a tasty proposition.
In League One, Stirling Albion are already relegated but the relegation play-off slot is still to be decided. It’s a straight shoot-out between Ayr United and Stenhousemuir to avoid that trap door.
What is interesting to note here, is that Stirling play both of these sides in their final two games of the season. So despite not actually having the possibility of the play-off spot, they will have a direct impact on Stenny and Ayr’s chances of avoiding the relegation play-offs.
So there we have it, despite their not being as much excitement in terms of title winners and league losers, there’s still plenty to play for in whose season will drag on for a couple more weeks and whose is going to end after their league games have finished.
One thing is for certain, though. Excitement can be found in Scottish football, you just need to look in the right places.
AT THE beginning of the month, an article was published in the Sunday Mail explaining how last year it was discovered that the Qatar World Cup infrastructure and stadia were being built by cheap-labour, migrant workers. The Qatari government assured everyone that working conditions would improve.
However, it looks as if they haven’t. The article also reports that Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, recently returned to the country to investigate the issue for himself and it reports how many of the workers are still on cheap labour rates and drinking cheap aftershave containing up to 70 per cent alcohol levels — which is incredibly harmful to their health. Despite being such a rich country, the workers toil six days per week at between 10 and 12 hours a day and receive only $300 at the end of the month.
It has now emerged that SFA chiefs, Stewart Regan, Campbell Ogilvie and Rod Petrie travelled to the Middle East country for discussions with the Qatari FA. When the partnership with the SFA was announced last year, the Qatari FA vice-president was quoted as saying that there would be ‘an enhanced relationship between us to improve the football system in both Qatar and Scotland.’ This begs the question, why hasn’t the SFA spoken out about the reports of ‘grave human rights abuses and exploitive practices’ in Qatar? Is this because the SFA are scared to upset the moneymen of FIFA and Qatar? Some may wonder if the men in charge of the Scottish game don’t want to jeopardise their own coffers. Although the contents of the deals between Qatar and its various partnerships relating to the World Cup and other football-related issues are yet to be made public, it has to be assumed that money had a large bearing on these.
At home, SFA bosses salaries have been rising in recent years, with no sign of any decreases, yet many people who are working within the game across the world are on the lowest salaries that are legal in their respective countries — and some salaries may even be lower than their legal or living wage.
Football’s leaders — like Stewart Regan, Campbell Ogilvie, Rod Petrie and Sepp Blatter — are charged with the safeguarding of the people’s game, yet instances like this, although not proven publicly, show that they may have a main motive of making money.
Fans make up a huge part of the game — without fans, the majority of money going into clubs would disappear. Either through lack of gate money, advertising or TV deals. Companies pay football clubs and their governing bodies these fees to show the games or advertise during them as they have an audience there to see what they are offering. Without the fans attending matches, there would be even more near empty stadiums and club turnover would reduce further due to a lack of commercial and retail sales. We could go on and on about how fans affect football. The game’s governing chiefs don’t seem to take into account that without fans, they would be out of a job and our football clubs would disappear.
Many people don’t agree with how Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2022, let alone the working conditions of the people charged with building everything necessary for the competition.
The dreadful conditions that the people are working in whilst preparing Qatar’s World Cup send out the wrong message to the world. Continued silence from the SFA gives the impression that they either support what Qatar is doing or they just don’t care. How can the people in charge of our game remain silent about this? Are these really the kind of people we want in charge?
It’s time that the people who are supposed to look after our game begin to really look after it. We must remember that fans are an integral part of the game, so as the game can’t speak for itself, it is up to us to make sure that our voices are heard when we disagree with the way things are run. If we don’t do that then our clubs may ultimately vanish like butter melting slowly in a hot pan.
The Crabbies Grand National, the Masters in Augusta, football matches up and down the country, including south of the border, as well as Pro12 rugby and Andy Murray’s wedding. OK, so the last one doesn’t really count.
However, we are — obviously — going to focus on the football, and in particular, Scottish football.
Dundee secured their place in the top half over the weekend, while Hamilton Accies dropped out as their post-Alex Neil slump continued. 33 games played this season, 13 under Martin Canning now, and Accies sit on 43 points, meaning they miss out on that coveted top-six finish.
For a team that came up from the Championship last year, it still is a successful season, despite the promise they showed earlier in the campaign.
However, the league split which occurs at this stage of the season is still a hateful, puzzling conundrum to me.
For all we know, Accies could win their final five games of the season, while Dundee could lose their final five, and Accies would finish 14 points better off than Dundee, but still remain a place below them in the table.
I can’t understand how the league bosses find this to be acceptable. Yes, they have listened to the fans, as well as the clubs, in restructuring the league formats, but it’s still such a crazy set-up. Although some might say how Accies might win their five games because of the teams they have to play, and Dundee might lose their games because of the teams they are to face, but at the end of the day this is the way it is because of how poorly the league is set up.
In my opinion, there should only be two tiers — Premiership and Championship. Playing some teams in the league three, and sometimes four, times a season is too much — and that’s not even including Cup matches. It gets so repetitive and to be honest, I’m sick of seeing the same matches week in, week out.
We only have to look at this season when Celtic played Dundee United four times in two weeks — and that was before the split!
Of course, that was a bit of a bad-luck story, considering one match was a replay and only one of these fixtures was actually in the league, but the premise is the same.
The fact of the matter is, teams should only be playing each other twice per season in the league – once at home and once away. It’s how it’s done in knock-out competitions, it’s how it’s done in the best leagues around Europe and it’s how it should be done.
I’m not entirely sure how every team and its board feels about the split; some may enjoy playing the same time three times and another team four times in the league, while some teams may only want to play each team twice a season.
However, from speaking to fans in the past, I’ve got a general sense that fans don’t like the split for the reasons cited throughout this piece.
Reform and restructuring has taken place in the leagues over the last few years, but it is not enough. To have a fair league, it has to be fair in that teams should only be playing each other twice a season — home and away — not home, away, home, or away, home, away; there isn’t anything fair about that.
Scottish football is lingering behind the top leagues in Europe when it comes to being fair to the clubs, to the fans. More change needs to happen, otherwise Scottish football could be stuck where it is, with no hope of catching the rest of the continent.
DESPITE being one of the best football supporting countries in the whole of Europe, with around four per cent of the population attending matches every week — higher than Germany, Spain and even those south of the border — why then, are Scottish stadiums always so empty? Match day experience? Cost? Something else? A mixture of everything?
The BBC’s Price of Football survey, which was published in October 2014, shows that the Scottish game is much cheaper than our English counterparts — the cheapest season ticket in the Scottish top flight is £200 at Inverness, while in the English Premiership the cheapest season ticket is at Manchester City at a cost of £299. So £99 extra will get you the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Frank Lampard. In addition to that, you get — usually — brilliant attacking football, goals and superstars. Almost all clubs in the Scottish top-flight offer a season ticket around the same price as City, so while City provide the above, our clubs give us… some entertainment? Some good players? Some goals.
Our clubs do provide the same things as City, but not on the same level. Every fan knows that the English game is vastly overpriced — and English fans have shown their frustrations through various campaigns over the rising cost of supporting their club. But is the Scottish game overpriced, too?
Fans can spend anywhere between £10 and £34 for a match day ticket at any level in Scotland. When you factor in the cost of travelling, costs can easily go over £40 for the day — and that’s not including the price of extras such as food, programmes and memorabilia. If fans buy food and a programme at every match, there’s at least another £5 on top of the cost of the day.
Scotland is not made up of wealthy people. There are some wealthy fans, but the majority of fans are what we used to call the working class. Can a working class fan afford to spend over £60 per month going to support their club, especially if they have kids who want to go — easily adding at least an extra £10 per week onto their costs?
Some may be able to, but a lot can’t. This is part of the reason there are dwindling attendances, a sad reality that has been forced upon the lifeblood of the sport — the fans.
As the game has become more expensive, the financial cost has gradually deterred fans from going to every game.
Last month, Celtic played Inter Milan in their Europa League tie. It was played in front of a full stadium in Glasgow, that is, 60,000 people managed to go to the match, after their work on a Thursday night.
The weekend after that match, Celtic hosted Hamilton Accies and there were 48,000 or so in attendance. The last home game Celtic had before Inter was against Motherwell, on 21 January and there were just over 42,000 fans there. The home game before that was attended by 45,000 people. Compared to other clubs these are still relatively strong numbers, but it means that there are regularly around 25 per cent of seats empty at Celtic Park.
This example shows that fans are willing to pay the money for a crucial match — a match that fans may not see again for several years added to the top class players that Inter bring, and the history.
As fans in Scotland continue to be priced out of domestic games, we will continue to see empty seats every Saturday and Sunday, but on those rare European nights, the stadiums will be full.
Ticket prices remain around the same cost on European nights as they are for domestic matches, but European games mean so much more to fans.
Until some sort of middle ground can be met, whereby a regular match day experience is more affordable to every fan, then there will still be many empty seats. Scottish fans should take note of their English counterparts and show their frustrations to their clubs, to their clubs’ boards, to the SPFL board, to the media; to anyone who can help reduce the costs of supporting their teams.
Football without fans is nothing. Perhaps it’s time that this was recognised and remembered.