Date: 9th April 2021
This week I’m going to talk about
Six SFSA Years On
“Now we are six
Still growin’ and cleverer
But wi’ no Fans Alliance
Our game’s stuck foreverer”.
(with apologies to AA Milne).
It’s no big deal but six short years ago Paul Goodwin, Simon Barrow and ex first minister Henry McLeish decided our game needed insight and expertise from outside the traditional Hampden structures, power brokers and invited committees.
There was at the time an existing fans group in Scotland but it was and still is an in-house organisation funded and controlled by the football authorities. Paul, Henry and Simon knew a strong, independent fans alliance was urgently required to shake the game out of its Victorian ways.
We have known from day one and valued the fact that fans will never agree about everything but we can and do come to a consensus over issues, especially the big ones.
The Scottish Football Supporters Association is simply here to represent all fans and the good of the game.
It’s not been an easy journey.
After 148 years of football running itself, it has walls as thick as Borders keeps, deep seated behind-closed-doors traditions and rituals that don’t invite or encourage change.
6 years on SFSA now we’re heading for circa 80,000 souls, growing every week, with members from across all clubs and leagues. We’re united in a love of our teams and the game itself.
We know from your feedback that the representation, news and insight we share from far and wide is appreciated. It’s the kind of stuff we don’t always see in the sports pages.
SFSA are wee and run by volunteers and advisers who give freely of their time and expertise because they want to give something back to the game.
The reality is football simply cannot run itself, by itself, for itself because self-interest rather than common good prevails every time.
Scottish Football 2021 remains caught in its very own Groundhog Day of diminishing returns.
Those running our game are doing so in straitjackets of the game’s own making.
The 19th century business model of clubs running football is breaking down elsewhere too.
South of the border the supporter’s movement “The Beautiful Game” has been backed by a growing band of heavyweight fans and is making remarkable progress.
They have made it political.
While no two countries are the same, in England the major issue is the sheer gap between the Big 6 and the rest. The FA’s Big Six clubs are continually looking for a bigger share of the cake and threatening the survival of the game itself.
Up here there are parallels yet somehow we stumble and bumble along and blocking change because we always have.
There are good people working in and across Scottish football but our game needs a sustainable multi-faceted structure based on common good.
Easy to say I hear you think.
The reality is financial pressures and short-termism preclude our clubs from moving away from the current model even though they can see it is broken.
Without external influence we will remain stuck.
The SFA to be fair have seen this coming for many years and tried and failed at least three times.
They commissioned Ernie Walker’s Think Tank (never published), and McLeish Reports 1 and 2 before ignoring most of what they’d paid for.
Now in the run up to the Scottish elections in May the SFA have surprised us all.
On Tuesday they press-released that they had sent a request to all political parties that the next government should work in a “partnership approach” with the SFA.
Below I have copied their summary and I discuss it at length.
But first some good news for us all.
Sandy Ceferin Backs Hampden and 7 Other Venues
The status before today was that Uefa had piled pressure on all 12 Euros venues to allow 30 – 40% of capacity.
That level covers their operational costs.
The pressure was all about money and Sandy has got a result so far.
Today 8 venues got his “thumbs up”.
Maybe even a little overoptimism but time will tell.
St Petersburg confirmed 50% capacity crowds with a planned ‘increase’ review at the end of the month.
Baku will allow 50% and travelling fans with Covid test results.
Bucharest is aiming for 100%.
Amsterdam, Copenhagen Bucharest and Glasgow confirm 25- 33% ish.
London confirms 25% for group matches and hopes for more for the semis and final.
Munich, Rome, Bilbao and Dublin have been told to provide additional information by April 19.th
I don’t know what that means and Sandy hasn’t told us.
I do know that so far nobody has asked the virus to behave and stop mutating.
As JK Galbraith would have said.
“At this moment there are no certainties and anyone who thinks there are may be very surprised indeed”.
I hope we have fans at games but the only certainty is nothing can be guaranteed.
The Uefa plan for deciding who gets to use their tickets and see the matches was also announced. Uefa will first work out how many of the existing tickets have been kept by the initial purchasers after travel restrictions become clearer and to then see if additional ballots are needed to sell any spare capacities.
My son has not yet heard about his tickets for both Scotland’s home games, bought and paid for long before we even knew we had qualified.
In early May we are told fan allocations for late qualifiers Hungary, North Macedonia, Scotland and Slovakia will become available too so there may be a public sale of sorts.
It’s all in the lap of the mutation gods.
No sorry that is better translated as
Government Money Wanted By The SFA
(In case you haven’t seen it I have lifted this next 14 line section from the SFA web site. It’s worth a read).
Scottish FA – Vision For The Future
The next Scottish Government has an opportunity to fuel football’s unique ability to inspire the nation.
We strive to make the national sport open to more people, more often, and at less cost.
We want to reinforce football’s ability to improve lives, connect communities; be a hub for innovation and a champion of sustainability and green technology.
Football delivers more than £1bn of Social Return on Investment and, with unparalleled cultural significance and reach, can become a key enabling partner leveraging Scotland’s image and aspirations regionally, nationally and internationally.
We therefore ask the next Scottish Government to commit to a partnership approach with the Scottish FA to:
Use The Power Of Football To Inspire A Healthier Scotland
Football reaches millions across Scotland in a variety of ways.
The Scottish FA proposes to offer the power and influence of the national game to be at the forefront of a health and wellbeing revolution.
This partnership should extend across all cabinet portfolios and include two-way communication and activation to promote and improve equality and education in all aspects of health and wellbeing.
Football For All, And For Free
Remove the cost barrier and allow our children to enjoy the many benefits of playing football by creating a free football voucher scheme.
Hampden Park – The Home Of Scottish Football; A Hub For Excellence
Support an improvement and modernisation programme for Hampden to become an elite sporting campus and a centre for learning excellence, community benefit, and technological advancement.
I’ve read this confusing ‘manifesto’ many times.
I agree football can and should indeed be a power for good in the health of the nation.
And I am aware that the SFA who over the years have been losing their own political fight with the SPFL are right to seek help from outside.
Some of it though I find confusing and also bare-faced arrogant so please bear with me.
The opening sentence “The next Scottish Government has an opportunity to fuel football’s unique ability to inspire the nation” is a bizarre intro.
It reads to me that the SFA are challenging the government to fund their new challenge.
Because the SFA then quantifies what this ‘fuel’ brings to the party i.e. “Football delivers more than £1bn, unparalleled cultural significance and reach, – a key enabling partner”.
So in SFA Speak– “Scottish Government – you’d better commit to and pay for a partnership approach with the Scottish FA”.
The words don’t read or hang together well and look like they were written by a committee.
In fact more than that, they come across as conceited and quite self-congratulatory from an organisation that many think, or rather know, is out of touch.
Looking at the detail the idea of free football and a football voucher scheme is great.
It is certainly an improvement on the current SFA imposed fee of £9 per match per team for all SFA authorised kids matches.
The SFA currently charges kids teams for the right to play SFA endorsed football.
Many of us have worked in commercial organisations and understand how business is run.
Football is different to most other businesses.
When football talks about investment it means “give us some money for us to spend. But don’t ask for transparency or to meet us half-way like normal partnerships”.
Here is a wee comparison.
Look up committee work in the Scottish Government.
You’ll find pages and pages of notes about who was there, who said what etc.
You can come along to parliament in normal times or watch it on TV.
It is open and recorded and welcoming.
Then try looking up records of SFA board meetings or committee records or anything other than press releases.
Try asking for an observer ticket to a board meeting.
You won’t find much to read.
You won’t be welcomed to observe either.
Can you imagine the Scottish Government working in a similar way as partners?
The SFA and SPFL can’t help themselves.
It’s in their DNA.
Football in Scotland has an endemic group-behavioural problem.
It uses secrecy as a means of power from within and this immediately creates huge issues for any much-needed partnership.
And please consider the following.
The Scottish Football Association was 148 years old on March 13th.
Everything it has asked in this quite bizarre manifesto has been within its own power over each and every one of those 148 years.
Why did none of it happen before?
Why ask for this kind of help now?
Why no acknowledgement that for any successful partnership that football would have to change radically?
I’ve spoken at length with people watching this with interest.
One pal, a PR veteran, said to me “Andy I’m confused. A strange request, badly written, quasi political nonsense”.
My business school professor pal said, “This could have been a smart move. It started off as a macro discussion on the good of the game and ends up like a plea to fund a free football voucher scheme. That sounds like a commercial requirement and a need for a sponsor not a strategic step from a plugged-in potential partner. The government don’t trust them now. Why should that change? “Nicola has real demands on her budgets. She has no cash to burn. And if she had, football has been profligate with every penny it has ever been given so she would be mad to get involved”.
A Political Solution is the Only Way
The SFSA believe football needs political help form outside to bring the changes it needs.
Henry McLeish has long said that control of the game has to be independent of the clubs and most would agree.
In our various, recent, Zoom calls we, and our members, have already spoken with the heads of most parties and will continue again after the elections.
You’ll find a report from each call we’ve had on our web site too.
(And you are welcome to join in the future).
They all get the fact that football, in its wee self important and self interest bubble, has ignored the fans and the push for common good for too long.
“What a missed opportunity from those on the 6th floor”.
Fiona McIntyre – Good News For Our Women’s Game
This week Fiona, as new Head of Girl’s and Women’s Football was featured in an in-house 11 minute video discussing her first couple of weeks in post and plans for the future.
Some other stuff was released too like how Fifa’s £350K Covid Relief Fund will be spent and the imminent launch of a new SFA Corporate plan.
Everyone I’ve spoken to says her appointment is a positive move and her experience of running the SWF at Hampden will be invaluable.
She is well liked.
Fiona said on the video release that she will be driving a strategy for the girls’ and women’s game and will be part of the team appointing a new manager to replace Shelley Kerr soon.
Quite why this was all done in house and scripted rather than with outside journalists asking real questions and getting real answers I’m not sure.
I know some people believe she is the right person but fear she will have to fight to get ‘them who make decisions’ to believe in and fund our women’s and girls’ game.
Good luck Fiona from the SFSA.
No Fans at the Cup Final
Jason had already said the cup final could be used as a Euros test event with fans allowed.
He didn’t say how many but his optimism was premature.
In the press it says the ground is officially Uefa’s from May 14 onwards with the Scottish Cup on May 22 just a one-day hand-back.
That doesn’t make it true.
I would have thought it would have made sense to have 12,000 there just like Nicola’s approved plan for 23 days later.
A Lost Opportunity
The Scottish Cup 2020 – 2021 has no sponsor.
You probably noticed.
This is not a criticism of the current SFA commercial people even though it could and probably should be.
It is however a criticism of Rod, Ian and the rest of the board for myopia regarding this year’s competition.
When no sponsor was confirmed they had options – i.e. run the cup with no sponsor like they have or think outside the box.
When Nathan Evans made the draw the advertising boards behind him carried “Give for Grassroots” and “Scottish Football Partnership Trust” as well as Specsavers logos.
Maybe that was as far outside the box they could think?
I don’t know how many media airings the entity that is “The Scottish Cup” has had so far or will get in the next few weeks.
£Millions worth of media value and all lost into the ether like empty seats on last Saturday’s trains.
What a bloody waste guys!
Why did the SFA not take one of these two easy options?
1 Pick a Mental health charity and give a one year sponsorship for free?
2 Pick a gambling help charity like Gamtalk?
Both could have been done in conjunction with the Scottish government.
We’re only at the 4th round.
Why not do something positive now Rod, Ian et al?
It is not too late.
It would make a cracking story too.
“Cast your bread on the water,” and all that.
Lord Tyre’s Court of Se££ion
The David Grier compensation claim against Police Scotland and the Crown Prosecution Service continues this week and into next.
The strangest quote so far was from Phillip Duffy of Duff and Phelps who said he was giving a witness statement when Detective Chief Inspector Jim Robertson heading up the Police Scotland team told him that the police case was based on the BBC Panorama special “The men who sold the jerseys”.
This is the same DCI Robertson is also allegedly said to be the singer of at least two well known Rangers ditties to allegedly intimidate his witnesses.
I don’t know if he is called to this three week get together. Maybe he’ll sing the songs if he does.
Today James Mulholland who was Lord Advocate (i.e. boss and responsible) at the time said, “Jim Keegan was appointed in October 2014. I didn’t have day to day involvement but was available”.
This happens to be contradictory to Jame’s Wolffe QC saying though lawyers that Mulholland’s hands were “on the tiller” throughout.
So either a big boy did it and ran away or we have a few interesting sessions to come.
That’s why we need judges.
Why is this genuine and total “balls up” and growing liability not being discussed anywhere in the build up to our election?
I can think of £80M plus reasons why it should be.
Valencia Take Inspiration From Aberdeen Uni 2nd XI
On April 20th 2019 the Uni 2nds were playing Kincorth at Tullos and walked off en masse.
“We abandoned the game after an extremely offensive racial slur towards a Uni player. Almost every Uni player heard the abuse yet the referee did not. We have a zero tolerance policy”.
A kind of anarchy that I agree with and it won the club a sportsman’s award.
Last weekend Mouctar Diakhary of Valencia said he was abused racially by Juan Cala of Cadiz.
Valencia walked off the park en masse.
Then having been told they would forfeit 3 points in a game when the score was 1-1 they came back on the field without Mouctar but with a substitute Hugo Guillamon.
With echoes of the recent Rangers vs. Slavia Prague incident and the very poor Uefa response so far, football has to agree a policy because this will happen again before it stops.
I’m not holding my breath that it will come soon or will make any sense.
As always feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
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