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Andy’s Sting In The Tale (02/02/24) “Our Bill Murray Moment?”

Date: 2nd February 2024

(Photo:@Homesoffootball)

 



It’s Groundhog Day today.

There is no planned celebration on the 6th floor at Hamden but in the Gobbler’s Knob district of Punxsutawney over 20,000 hardy souls will have braved the freezing temperatures to see if Phil the town’s pet groundhog is predicting another 6 weeks of winter or if the locals can break out the BBQs.
The real Groundhog story is not really the end of winter.

No, Groundhog Day is really just about change, sometimes painfully, but eventually and mostly from within.

After a week when our Scottish Parliament, well a growing band of them, debated Scottish football, I find the whole Groundhog Day theme about eventual hard-earned redemption from within quite appropriate.

The wonderful Bill Murray played Phil Connors, the self-obsessed, inward looking, outwardly successful with a small ‘s’, but miserable, and directionless being.
An entity in an undiagnosed self-induced decline.

Football across the world parallels Phil Connors in many ways and we in Scotland are well up the equivalent world rankings too.

How to Stop Feeling Like Every Day is Groundhog Day - The RiveterThat is because self-interest isn’t just confined to weathermen from Pennsylvania.

Nor is self-correction hard wired into football’s DNA, if it comes, it has to come from outside just like for Phil.
Football 2024 is a Victorian sport, dominated by unforeseen riches, power and pressures from the future.
In the constant rush for more and more, football takes more and more for the top end gives less and less to its roots.
It’s not just a Scottish problem.

But, Scottish football is well trapped in demands of, and from, the top rather than forging and delivering the aspirations and needs of the community and the game as a whole.

England has the same problem, writ larger.

But it also has visionaries.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch claims all-seater stadia are the best option | Daily Mail OnlineTracey Crouch, Gary Neville and a whole group of other heroes have been acting together to bring a reset.
It’s not been easy but the fight for more common good in their game has been won.
Right now, Engerland are introducing ‘outside thinking’ and reviews with teeth into their game by statute.
They are doing this from the outside because like in Scotland, there was no appetite from within for even discussing the right changes.

Our SFA don’t want anything like that challenging or changing their world and are in aggressive ‘denial and repulsion’ mode.
External input, any kind of regulation, any progressive suggestions for change are neither welcome nor needed.

“Nothing to see here, move along.
But please keep giving us government money.
And yes maybe marking our own homework is institutionalised but it works fine and is nothing like the Post Office batting away their pesky sub postmasters”.

Suitability of 'reversible' heat pumps to cool homes questioned - Utility WeekIt is not difficult to see that our game today is straitjacketed to meeting the self-interest of the few powerful clubs who control it.
Fundamentally all decisions are made for financial reasons .
Clubs even think ‘investment’ means wages for increasingly non home-grown players filling our shirts at the expense of our own youngsters.

The game has stopped looking outside for everything except Uefa revenues, transfer income and shirt-filling mercenaries using our game as a stepping stone.

If our game was restructured radically to welcome input and to prioritise and embrace common-good change as an ongoing strategy there would be no need for regulators, here in England or anywhere.

But that is as likely as European Swallows carrying coconuts to Mercia to provide horses hooves noises in the next Monty Python film.

In ancient times, what else was the coconut used for aside from food? - QuoraThe debate the other night was just a good start.
It led to a unanimous dressing down for the SFA but the Minister had been pre-briefed to allow a future round table discussion group rather than give a full blessing. (That’s also about money).
We expected that.
And truth be told, nothing radical may happen overnight but many unstoppable changes are already in passage.

The cross party band of football Supporting MSP’s demanding more openness and change for the good of the whole football society will grow and will become an unstoppable force supporting the whole football community.

The SFA will be aware of this and will pretend to reset by ‘going through a few motions’ but like weatherman Phil Connors will soon find out that meaningful change, the kind of change it will take to win the prize and move into a new day doesn’t come unless it is profound and real.

My advice to them, the SFA, would be to join in and enhance the speed and impact of change.

This Week’s Sting

1.  Musings After My First Visit to the Chamber

There were 30 or so MSPs and just 5 visitors for the graveyard slot.
MSP Ben McPherson’s ‘Enhancing Scottish Football with an independent regulator’ debate started early and the tv record of it is more interesting than most Holyrood sessions.
It is well worth a look.

Members’ Business — S6M-11073 Ben Macpherson: Enhancing Scottish Football | Scottish Parliament TV

The 30 minutes planned were extended because MSPs wanted to have their say and I’d say the wonderful set of deep seated feelings were also cut short to allow the Minister Maree Todd in at the end.
We were just 4 souls and listened adeptly, from the very back of a side gallery, not sure why we were sent there when the good seats were all empty.
Holyrood debating chamber to host BBC Question Time - BBC NewsWe had at least 3 security guards watching us right through. (I even got a row once for clapping along with the MSPs).
The MSPs who spoke, spoke well, mostly from notes.
It was all pretty much one-sided and seeking and endorsing change.
The MSPs were well briefed, mostly passionate and also knowledgeable about the issues.
In particular they were very positive about the SFSA’s paper, ‘Rebuilding Scottish Football, – A Fan Led Review of the Game” that launched last June in Holyrood to non attendance and a wall of silence from the 6th floor.
It’s on our web site.
The  SFA’s decision not to take part and their lack of a reaction since was an obvious own goal but not a surprise.

The Review of the Game – Scottish Football Supporters Association – SFSA (scottishfsa.org)

The SFA were however thanked on Wednesday for their briefing notes.
A glowing, self-marked, 3 page summary produced by their PR agency and especially bumming up the success of the Scottish men’s and women’s teams and the subsequent fan uplift.

Steve Clarke's crass Rangers outburst unbefitting so now it's bye, bye to the Scotland manager – Hotline - Sports Hotline - Daily RecordIt’s almost funny because nothing the SFA have actively done and no policy or area of spend can be identified for the reason for our current international successes.
Maybe Steve Clarke is the reason and ‘In Steve We Trust’.

“So we have a great manager and therefore Scottish Football doesn’t need outside vision help and scrutiny”.

Ahem, is this the same Steve Clarke who can trace his football career back to schools football which the SFA have had 42 years to kick start since it died in 1982 after the teachers walked away?!

In the cold light of hindsight most of the PR-produced detail and indeed the ‘basking in the glow of international improvement’ struggles to stand up to any kind of interrogation.
You  could see MSPs were also aware of and angry at the SFA’s ‘Ratners’ moment at the December Holyrood committee.

The minister stood up at 6.20.

Members' Business - Maree Todd MSP: The Garbh Allt Community Initiative Reaches Funding Target | Scottish Parliament TVShe didn’t look relaxed and wasn’t talking freely like I know she can. She has no passion for this.
The obvious outcome was probably her only way forward and was an agreement to taking the conversation and broader debate forward into specific MSP driven discussions around a table.
Being fair, I’d say football is not her sport.
Football is also not the most important element in her health portfolio and that she’s busy enough and fighting enough fires without any of this happening.
Maree simply wasn’t nearly as well briefed or caring about the situation as the MSPs.
But again, being fair, with everything else in her portfolio taking up 8 days a week of her time I don’t think she has the capacity to be tuned in to everything.

Scotland should have a dedicated Sports Minister

 

2. Which of Sting’s 11 Questions and Answers Didn’t Made it to Wednesday’s Debating Chamber?

Some of my questions from last week’s Sting were raised and addressed, mostly indirectly.
Holyrood is mostly polite and I get that because cross party supported stuff has to avoid the kind of party squabbling that turns everyone off.

These 7 Sting Questions from last week STILL await both being formally asked and answered.

And they won’t go away. 

i) How much will the SFA’s/SPFL’s exclusive and secret ‘5 Way Agreement’ eventually cost the Scottish taxpayer?

Search to find worst football pitch in mainland Britain. | Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiserii) How many Scottish kids have missed out on the joys and health benefits of playing schools football since 1982?

iv) How much from the £1.35M Sports Scotland money makes it through to the grass roots clubs?

v) Is it true that money laundering has found its way into Scottish Football?

vi) How much Holyrood and Westminster government money has gone into Scottish football in the last 10 years?

vii) Why do the SFA charge grass roots volunteer coaches for qualifying to volunteer?

viii) Why did the Scottish Women’s team have to be on the steps of an employment hearing before they were treated equally?

(And there will be more questions that need addressed or our proverbial Phil won’t get Rita and will still be waking up to Sonny and Cher on a wee tinny radio).


3. Pyro, A Topical and Burning Issue

SPFL hatch plan to stop pyro madness as Rangers fans display 'crossed a line' and thrusts issue into urgency mode - Daily RecordThis is what seems like an intractable but growing problem and is being fuelled by fan copycat ‘ultra-ism where it’s a badge of honour to be bad.
Round table meetings driven by Holyrood and including fans groups are discussing both the growth and scale of the problem but also how find workable solutions.

Whatever happens will need the support of the majority of fans who our research shows understand the problems but are split.

If you are pro-pyros, please don’t believe anything except that there is no such thing as safe hand-held pyro.

And crowded places exacerbate the dangers and risks.

I know from SFSA members requests for help that I’m helping with, that fans with disabilities and vulnerable fans are particularly affected and collectively scared about the current level of risk in our stands. This problem is one they just want to go away.

I also know clubs don’t know what to do and want better legislation as a starting point.

But, the problem is some fans like pyro and want it to be part of their game experience.

Most of those ‘likers’ are young.
Some desperately also want to be seen to be ‘bad’ in their loose, football driven peer groups.
Especially away from home.

Football now knows that the users  are clever in how they employ the pyros and make it ultra-hard for clubs to identify the culprits.
And I’ve been told football doesn’t have any easy solutions.

Rangers fans set off flares and unveil banner aimed at top politicians as they call them out over pyro legislation talks | The Scottish SunThe reality is pyro fans don’t ever care much about their clubs being fined so that’s not a solution but ‘Strict Liability’ might be part of the answer.
And I can ask questions that others don’t want asked or debated.

I don’t just wonder if ‘points reductions’ as an ultimate sanction would stop this in its tracks?
I actually think it would.

That would hurt.

It’s also part of a broader discussion about ‘Strict Liability’ that football doesn’t want to have.
Scottish football clubs have long fought ‘Strict Liability’ at home although contradictorily they are happy to play under it in Europe.

For now, common sense and positive education have an important role to play.
But when East Fife v Spartans has pyros in Methil on a wet Tuesday then the problem really is everywhere and a few posters on the gates saying “Don’t” will not achieve anything.

Maybe Uefa should or could be the source of the wisdom and answers because it is a Europe wide problem.
In fact Fifa too because it is rife in South America.

UEFA chief Ceferin threatens to ban holdout Super League clubs from Champions League | Goal.com UKThat may indeed come in time, after Uefa’s Grandest Fromage, Sandy Ceferin succeeds in fornicating the Uefa rules and gets shoed in for an unheard-of third term.
Just like his Uefa Grand Fromage rival Gianni Infantino who recently did the same.
Maybe they will solve Pyros together?
Maybe not.

Deep down I hope that education supported by legislation might work but deeper down I’d say a more Draconian policy of points deductions will eventually be the answer and a lasting deterrent.

 

4. Club Ownership and Strategic Partnerships

Hibernian Football Club on X: "Heading to Easter Road today? 💚 https://t.co/wjDdtkmptN" / XI personally don’t like the idea of Bill Foley the Bournemouth owner taking a stake, even a minority shareholding in Hibs, said to be 25%.
It was said to have been approved by the SFA this week.
I’m not sure why this is just allowed to happen.
There needs to be an open and informed debate about this game changer and Fifa and Uefa need to advise our clubs and the fans about multi club ownership.
For now I don’t like the idea of Hibs or any Scottish club being EPL colts sides.

 

Feedback welcome and the wee-est of stories you send aren’t always wee.

andrew@scottishfsa.org

 

 

Andy’s Album of the Week

Concerts at Celtic Park – The Who – The Celtic WikiThe wind is roaring outside but today I saw the first wild daffodils outside under the beech trees across the road,  so that was a good reason to smile and look forward to summer.
And this week’s album took me straight back to Celtic Park on a summers day, June 5, 1976, when The Who ‘didn’t put the boot in’ because it was too light for their lasers to work, but Little Feat were fantastic.
‘Dixie Chicken’ is a good album, ‘Sailin’ Shoes’ good too but my favourite is ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ which formed the basis of their set back then.
My only ever time standing on the Celtic pitch.
And if I ever get the wee bam who broke into my Hillman Imp and stole my Phillips cassette player and everything else that could be carried I’ll break his walking stick!


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