Date: 3rd June 2022
This Week’s Sting
“If we always do what we’ve always done,
we’ll only get what we had before’.
1. Top-Down and Bottom-Up Focus & Investment Needed
Not a post-match blow by blow analysis.
Just some statements and a heartfelt request for change.
Historically we have commissioned so many expensive reports on improving Scottish football and all have been ignored and buried in the long grass somewhere at Hampden.
This time, maybe this time, we should use the best International manager and set-up we have had for a long, long time, and our positive momentum to ask the right questions and to seek real grass roots- upwards and International side-downwards, long term structural improvements.
i.e Top to Bottom and bottom to top and interlinked.
The fact that our top 3 clubs are currently bribing to play in the Lowland League rather than addressing a deep seated need in Scottish Football is a nonsense.
In the meantime Good Luck Ukraine against Wales.
I hope you make it and go far.
And I hope the kick up the backside you gave us gets acted on by those who can do something about it.
The fans will help if they can.
Post-Match Words from SFSA Members and Friends
“You broke our hearts”.
“The better team simply won”.
“We are a work in progress, hold the faith”.
“Thank you Scotland for your sportsmanship and welcome”.
Andy’s Appeal to Rod, Ian, Neil, Nicola, Maree and a host of others.
Please use this hiatus as a ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ moment.
Put the biggest brains we have, and the resources, behind making the right changes.
Think like Poppy Lord in section 6 below and please, please ask the stupid questions.
Adopt a better long-term strategy from kids, through schools right to the top.
Good for football and the health of our nation.
And all the luck to Ukraine on Sunday.
2. “Money Before Fans and That is Plain Wrong”
The quote is mine.
And it can be about almost everything in Sting this week.
But it is mostly about the gambling industry and its manipulation of football to recruit new casino and slots users.
You may or not be aware of the plans now being leaked by usual sources suggesting the current, long-overdue government review into gambling and its hold over sport and other aspects of our lives is likely to be downgraded.
The word is out that ‘commercial interest,’ and ‘powerful lobbying’ means it is all heading for a classic Westminster Fudge.
Maybe to be served with chilled Sauternes, donated by grateful gambling-cos, in Boris’s Garden at the next lockdown.
Gambling Brings Joy, Jobs, Tax Revenues, Fun, Misery, Debt Problems, Bankruptcies and Suicides.
It is not an easy discussion, but neither was tobacco which had a similar hold on sport and society.
I get that.
On one hand we have the Tam Cowans of the fans world who enjoy a flutter on their team as part of the match-day experience.
On the other we have the Paul Pettigrews of Gamtalk whose usual mistake is to win big first time.
I grew up with betting at match days and on the team bus too.
And yes in those olden and innocent days there were victims when it led to addiction, but it was not the emerging pandemic we now face.
Gambling companies, 2022, are not the local friendly bookies with wee notebooks and their runners who were part of our communities, nor even the team mates who trousered your match bonus in the card school at the back of the bus and then at least stood the beers.
No, they are faceless, clever-named, algorithm-driven money harvesters who cannot lose because the reality is they control the odds and both sides of any outcome.
Punters can win or lose – it doesn’t matter to the bookies.
They simply need to create transactions and skim their percentages.
But to maximise the fruits of their labours they constantly need to create more and more demand and satisfy it knowing their business model brings guaranteed percentages.
Yes, there are football and racing bets to tend where genuine sporting insight can actually help informed and clever punters.
But that isn’t why football is such a good vehicle for the gambling-cos.
Football is a ‘point of entry’ to gambling controlled casino options and there they have you where they want you.
Whether you are in Dundee* or Shanghai.
A window to the world of online, app led, under the government radar, revenue streams.
Gambling is all over football, especially in the Premiership, like a cheap demob suit but we have it up here too.
This week I sighed.
Actually that is an underrepresentation of what happened.
It was when I heard Dundee United proudly introducing their new ‘Partner’, QuinnCasino.
And when I read the shit that came out with the press release I was shouting at the Dundee Courier web site.
The quotes in the press release are said to come from Elliot Shaw, United’s head of ‘commercial and sponsorship’ and QuinnBet MD Stephen Kelly.
I don’t actually care who said what because it is all bollocks trying to justify self-harming their stakeholders, the United fans.
PR Agency Crap like,
“The deal will benefit the community as well as the club”
“We want to work closely with the Dundee Utd family and welcome them on board”.
‘We want to promote awareness’ (because that will increase our revenues).
We are also very keen to work with the Dundee United Community Trust promoting wellbeing, education and awareness around gambling.
So a tick-box exercise from a company who wants to normalise ‘recruitment of mug and young punters’ into casino -style betting in their community.
Yes, the inherent contradiction is there will be fun and pleasure for some, but lifelong reliance, addiction and bankruptcy for others.
And suicides too.
(And because much of that will be in the future everyone will have forgotten the detail and the club’s role)
Scotland is not unique.
English Football is even more riven and awash with gambling revenues and most clubs also want to stop legislation preventing this ‘easy money’.
But some good guys are fighting back.
Peter Shilton, ex England Goalie and well-known recovering gambling addict is well aware of the downsides and wants to do something positive.
Some months back he wrote a letter to Boris.
It was ignored.
Fair enough, we all know Boris was said to be managing an over- busy social calendar at the time.
Yesterday Peter handed in a petition to ban gambling companies from advertising on football shirts that has also been signed and supported by others including Gary Lineker.
Let me stress he is not asking for a ban on gambling.
He is not anti-gambling even though he could and should be.
Peter said, “We ask that we can count on your support in changing current regulations and introducing safer legislations that will ensure protection for our youth and vulnerable”.
“Banning gambling advertising on football shirts should be a priority for our government”.
“We know that gambling addiction is on the increase with suicide rates continuing to rise. I’m seriously concerned that children are being exposed to gambling from a young age.”
Ronnie Cowan, Scottish SNP MP for Inverclyde, and vice chair of the All-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm also spoke out providing further insight and with a wee dig at the Labour party who used to hold his seat.
“It was the gambling act of 2005 under Labour that led to this mess. We have cross party support seeing the real need for reform. This cannot be party political”.
All this confusion, and lack of real debate, sets the scene where Dundee United’s American owners think it is acceptable for them to work with shirt sponsorship that will increase their revenues, at the expense of some of their fans lives.
Hidden, future damage classed coldly as ‘collateral damage’ by the beancounters.
And they are doing nothing wrong in the eyes of the current legislations but as Wilkins Micawber said may moons ago, ‘The law is a ass”.
Our clubs should collectively be better than this.
And our Westminster government should put the people first, ahead of the industry and its industrial lobbying power.
3. Insights into Uefa Finals and an SFSA Request
It is unimaginable to even think for an instant, that Uefa could not predict the needs of fans on a 4, or 5-hour visitation to any stadium in 40-degree Sevilla heat.
Especially if they had already discussed and agreed security protocols like confiscating all liquids on entry.
There was not enough water and some fans in sheer desperation drank the unpotable water from the sinks in the toilets and have since complained of nasty stomach issues.
Uefa have so far blamed the “Concessionary” at the stadium.
Absolute nonsense and the joint Rangers, Frankfurt and fans initiative to hold Uefa to account deserves all the support we can all give it.
Last week’s Champions League Final was even worse and could have ended in carnage and deaths.
Liverpool fans in particular were somehow treated like vermin and it looked to outsiders that it was planned.
There were no surprises in Paris by the crowds or the status and the ground, the area, and the people running an event that had been moved from Russia months ago.
Then French were simply not prepared, or badly briefed, badly attitud-ed or all three combined.
Liverpool fans were Corralled, Kettled, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed and finally under-protected by the very people there to assist safe passage.
Read some of the online victim stuff.
The sheer breakdowns are well captured by angry and worried fans.
We have since heard the French authorities try forlornly to get their excuses in early, recognising but not admitting that they let the city, Uefa and the fans down.
Gerald Darmanin the Interior Minister and Amelie Oudea-Castera have been spouting non-factual nonsense that doesn’t add up.
It has the ring of a really badly thought through cover-up to deflect reality-based analysis that fires real questions at France which is also holding next year’s Rugby World Cup and the Olympics in 2024.
These rogue politicians need confusion to hide behind like:
“Liverpool fans arrived late”
“Liverpool fans had 45,000 fake tickets”
That is not true.
“Liverpool fans were trouble”.
In fact their ‘exemplary behaviour’ was what saved the day.
There is however a Gang Culture in Parts of Paris, like around the stadium that the authorities don’t want the world to know about.
The French Police know how to become invisible when predictable gang trouble rears.
So will Macron’s promised ‘Urgent Enquiry’ be urgent or a real enquiry.
No it won’t be a real enquiry till well downstream and after many Liverpool responses to the predictable attempts to fudge. Or rather ‘truquer’ in la linguee. (French Fudge).
The evidence is in too many phones and Liverpool will fight this one all the way like they did over Sheffield.
Uefa are quick enough to fine countries and clubs for petty breaches of protocol at Uefa matches.
I wonder how quick they will sort this all out?
Will they refund ticket prices and travel costs for bona fide fans who could not get into the match because of the failed, agreed Uefa match day protocols?
There are no excuses acceptable.
Uefa are at present not capable of staging big games
FANS NEED A CHARTER
The stadium responsibilities.
The security responsibilities.
Printed on tickets and guaranteed by all.
There should be no danger watching football anywhere or the football should be moved to where it is safe.
4. Who was Incompetent and, More Importantly, Who Pays?
The most lucrative gig for lawyers in Scotland right now must be what has now been called as ‘the botched inquiry’.
The one into the demise of Rangers and the subsequent sale of some assets to Charles Green and the role of individuals organisations and companies involved.
It is a mess, has already cost our public purse £40 Million and heading, according to some, over £100M before all is done.
Surprisingly we don’t get to read much about this in the press or hear about it on the radio but this is a huge story that deserves more daylight.
I’ll answer the ‘Who Pays’ question first.
We all do.
Now let’s start looking at ‘Who was Incompetent’?
My wee blog is happy to try to keep you up to date, but this is complex, complicated and an insight into how some parts of Scottish society still tries to work.
This week we have Detective Chief Inspector, Jim Robertson, who was given the job of leading an enquiry into allegations of fraud linked to the collapse of Rangers and subsequent sale of some of the assets by Duff and Phelps.
It was almost funny to read that his modus operandi was likened to Gene Hunt, the gung-ho 70s cop in ‘Life on Mars’ and said by Phil Duffy of Duff and Phelps to be both bizarre and unacceptable.
The behaviour is said to have included chanting ‘The Billy Boys” ‘an unacceptable razor-gang song with a rousing tune’, when trying to intimidate Mr Duffy, a man said to have catholic Northern Ireland connections.
David Grier of Duff and Phelps has also submitted complaints against Robertson and his assistant DCI Jaqueline O’Neill alleging their actions as now on record in a Court of Session case were criminal.
This is an active appeal but that doesn’t mean it should go underreported.
This week we also heard that Robertson and O’Neill, who have both since been promoted, also finagled a 5 day jolly earlier in the investigation to Ohio USA to ‘interview’ Alastair Johnson the former Rangers (pre 2012) chairman where there was a hand over of documents.
This led to a further 6 day trip to South Africa to meet Dave King another previous Rangers Chairman, (post 2012).
David Grier said, “Their globetrotting appears to have achieved nothing except racking up tens of thousands to the public purse”.
in the meantime, Sherriff Lindsay Wood, the official who granted over 20 warrants during the failed enquiry is being investigated.
Wood was seemingly a Rangers shareholder and maybe just should have declared a ‘conflict of interest’.
More on this as snippets emerge.
5. Did you know
Elite Football (Steves future Team) in Scotland Relies on the Lowland League?
Possibly the daftest ever heading I’ve written since Sting started but true.
Scottish Football has painted itself into a corner where our top 3 clubs have nowhere for their elite youngsters to bridge and blood the gap between playing other kids and adults.
So Rangers did a deal with the board of the Lowland League for themselves and Celtic where each club pays £25K to take part as ‘guests’.
Yes, it is a back-door attempt to get colts teams into the SPFL like in other countries.
Anyway Hearts want to come into the action too, pay their £25K and make the league an unbalanced but somewhat richer group of 19.
At the Lowland League AGM last Monday some of the truth got an airing.
Some clubs like the fact that the Colts on occasion increase crowds.
Some players and coaches like competing against future professionals.
I can’t disagree with that.
In the double-speak that abounds, the proposition to the member clubs is ‘the Lowland League are doing it for the benefit of Scottish Football’.
That is the justification they are spouting.
Absolute nonsense and upside-down logic worthy of Trump and his NRA pals and Putin’s Eurasian dream hiding as an anti Nazi project.
There is a vote on Monday coming and I think it will sneak over the line in favour of admission this year but hope it won’t.
Because if there is room for 19 clubs they should come from the leagues below not above bearing gifts.
I have no issue with a debate about colt’s teams playing against adult teams but the starting point for me and the vast majority of fans is they begin where any club would.
At the base.
Clean up the pyramid, Ian, Neil et al.
In the meantime, welcome to Tranent, and Banks O’ Dee into the Lowland and Highland League.
Please help in the change that only new, common-good thinking and often new blood brings.
6. Poppy and Faith in the Future
In June 2021 Poppy Lord brought new thinking to an old problem and got a result.
She was a primary six pupil at St Stephen’s School in Clydebank and asked why the Scotland v Czech game was not being shown in her and other schools, live.
Long story short, it was, she got the approval of Nicola and change happened.
Poppy was then voted fan of the year by SFSA in our poll and last Sunday, John McGinn who went to the same primary school presented Poppy with her award while she presented him with both Player of the Year and Goal of the year.
Nice things happen in football.
Scottish football needs more Poppys.
Finally, as always, feedback and opinions welcome.
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