Date: 5th February 2021
A week that has taken us from Pacific Key to the Kremlin and (unlike Alexei Navalny) back again safely.
It started with the Sunday Times front-paging a coming ban on the Gambling industry using football to grab and hold customers.
As far as I know this is just in the UK for now but it is odds on there will be a domino effect across world football and other sports.
We were then contacted by Auntie Beeb who knew of our recent Gambling in Football research in Scotland that many of you helped with.
A brief discussion led to an invite on to their Good Morning Scotland breakfast show along with Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde who is vice chair of the “all party group on gambling harm”.
The inspirational Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk also joined me.
Ronnie had the early morning slot at 7.40 and came across really well and we were on with Paul an hour later.
If you’d like a listen it’s on the 1st of Feb show from 2h, 36m onwards.
I spoke about gambling related facts and statistics including our research.
Ronnie had earlier called the long-term consequences of the gambling grip of football a “pandemic” and having read up on it all I can’t disagree with him.
I think the presenter actually expected me to try to support those in football who verbally justify the significant revenues coming into our game from the gambling industry and make the potential loss of money into the game their case.
I didn’t even try to.
It’s money football can do without and be better for it.
I made the point that most fans including myself enjoy a bet and don’t want gambling banned. Any such ban would serve no purpose and just put it all underground anyway.
But we need to protect those in our community who as the experts rightly say need protection.
Most fans would agree.
Our research says 78% of us think there is too much gambling sponsorship in our game and that we are over-reliant on it and a whopping 95% think our clubs take the money without doing enough to make their fans aware of the risks of gambling.
Here’s a hard fact that never gets talked about.
The gambling industry has no interest in our game or our people.
Its relationship with football and other key sports too is just about recruiting new users and milking maximum revenues from all aspects of our game and games using increasingly aggressive interactional tactics.
A numbers game of spend against return.
Football just happens to be a cheap and international medium for their various messages and products.
And the beautiful game is international with the bonus of audiences all over the planet.
Gambling has quickly seen how to use football to get around many challenges and barriers including reaching young people, especially the hard to reach and catch males and even get on the BBC every time football is played.
Recent research shows up to 90% of Match of the Day screen shots have gambling advertising.
Football offers an incredibly cost effective reach on a public channel where advertising is not even allowed.
The onslaught from the combined gambling industry is a deeply cynical use of our sport to get to our youngsters.
Rumbles from Westminster suggest its days are now numbered hence the briefing from Whitehall last weekend to the Sunday Times but it ain’t over yet.
The betting industry won’t go down without a fight and its lobbying powers are huge, all over the world and yes for sure in London.
I am happy to say there are already green shoots of rejection starting from within our game but not many as most clubs choose to see the money rather than the misery caused to the minority.
Last year Everton declined to continue with a Kenyan based firm and Swansea city did likewise with their shirt bookie.
In parallel the Premier League’s CEO Richard Masters said, “Gambling requires stronger governance particularly to protect the vulnerable”.
He’s right but no insight like that has happened north of Hadrian’s Wall.
You might ask why?
Worse than that our governance still seem to want to tell the world that the current assault from gambling companies is no different to the football pools traditional links with our sport.
That’s the misleading story the SPFL still pump out through their one step removed PR agency.
Maybe because the fundamental issue is they can’t find wholesome replacement revenues like Everton and Swansea did.
From Russia With Love
Tommy Sheridan, yes he, heard the BBC show and with an article to write featured us in his Tuesday piece in Sputnik News who have an Edinburgh as well as a Kremlin office.
Whatever your politics his piece is well written and deeply personal and big thanks for us Tommy for further highlighting this issue.
His article is titled “Gambling Sponsorship of Football and Sport is Unhealthy – Ban it Now” https://sptnkne.ws/Fka8
Have a read comrades.
114 Days Till Hampden is Open or Closed or Very Closed for the Euros
Uefa’s head, Aleksander Ceferin has been quiet this week on just how he and his team plan to run the competition.
That is because he honestly doesn’t know but he would never own up to that.
He is therefore still hopeful like he said he was a week ago.
And that it will happen and in all 12 planned countries.
But is hope enough on a day when we hear Liverpool will not be allowed to travel to Germany to play Leipzig on 16 Feb because Germany has declared the fixture “does not meet the requirements for an exception”?
Maybe, maybe not?
Sufficient herd immunity from the vaccines and a low enough R number to allow teams to travel in and out of 12 countries might be a reality.
But it might all be too soon and an extra complication is that some countries may have stricter restrictions.
Nobody knows and nobody can be sure.
Lex Ceferin is right to wait but there will be a date in red on his calendar that he has not announced and never will. The date when decisions have to be made for the good of the tournament.
A financial decision.
I still think the Euros will happen but also that it is unlikely I’ll be at Hampden with my son.
What Else Does Uefa’s Wee Sandy C Get Up to When Not Making Decisions About the Euros?
He and his team are demonstrating to any big club who will listen that not all members are equal in his eyes.
It is a pre Valentines Day love-in.
Uefa are boldly hiding behind their coefficient game to stymie most of their nation members in an attempt to stop a breakaway.
Their problem is the ECA, European Club Association.
It’s a big problem and a growing one too.
We spoke about them and their plans for a breakaway Super League a few weeks back.
The plans are very real and looking viable financially.
Lars-Christian Olsson, president of European Leagues at Fifa immediately came out strongly against the ECA Super League maybe because it cuts him and his empire out.
He has been lobbying for support across the game and throwing in a few threats.
So deeply worried was he that there was always going to be a counter offer to try to stop the biggest teams looking to run their own show.
Today we heard the first of Uefa plans to allow all the big clubs entry into the Champions League even if they finished 5th or 6th on their leagues.
It’s not about being Champions any more.
It’s about Uefa coefficients and looking after their big boys.
It’s about the offer of hard-won and much-coveted places in the world’s top club tournament at the expense of other countries that will never get the revenues to increase their own dwindling coefficients.
A downwards Catch 22 spiral where the big 5 countries prevail at the expense of Scotland and others including those whose champions once won the top trophy.
Whatever happens the wee guys will lose out again.
That damages our game deeply.
A Shot at Glory Twenty Years On?
We know for sure the Scottish Cup will not be going to Whitehill or Kilnockie this year.
Whitehill were beaten by Hill O’ Beath who were playing an ineligible player and appealed. It was all admitted and that should have been that.
But their appeal was dealt with by the SFA secretly in a way as clumsy as some of the tackles that have recently got players post-match bans from the SFA Compliance Officer.
Kilnockie were a made up name and team from a made up fishing town and their ex Celtic striker Ally McCoist didn’t actually play for Celtic or Arsenal like in the film.
You can watch this cinema masterpiece made in 1999 and released in 2001 free, sometimes, on YouTube or buy it from Amazon.
I’ve never seen more than just a clip but Rotten Tomatoes gave it nearly 4 stars and 67%.
Anyway the title encapsulates just what the Scottish Cup is.
Everyone and fans all over Scotland relish A real Shot at Glory every year.
And with Whitehill and Kilnockie out of the way early doors the trophy this year was surely anyone’s.
That is until the lower leagues and the JRG lockdown.
Every week that goes by now brings more logistical issues to the SFA and the oldest cup going.
Our big clubs are still playing, hopefully will continue to do so and are match fit.
But the wee clubs are not and even if play resumes in time to save the cup they will need another pre-season.
We’re nearly at the planned round of 32 slated for 20 Feb but there are still 5 un-played ties from the round of 64 and no sign of a return.
And the looming Euros will constrict our season.
This week’s rumours appeared to leak that “payments” may be offered to the small clubs to stand aside and allow those in the top two leagues through to conclude the competition.
because surely the winner will be from the top two divisions.
I hope not.
I really hope it doesn’t come to that.
But nothing surprises me in how Scottish football treats the small clubs.
Not that different from the Fifa coefficient nonsense we spoke about above.
Kerching – The Mulholland Cul De Sac That Keeps On Paying
No headline news but it’s still bubbling away and running up costs in the Court of Session and some estimate the bill for us taxpayers will be close to £80M in damages, costs and more.
It’s all to do with the outfall from the liquidation of Craig Whyte’s team in 2012 and the role of Duff and Phelps and others when Mr Mulholland was in charge.
David Whitehouse has since been awarded significant damages (undisclosed officially but everyone knows what they are).
We’ve talked about them but now David has the bit between his teeth and seems to be on the march.
He has asked if he can share what he has learned from his particular case. By that I think stuff that helped him win. And he wants to share it with others who are following similar actions against Police Scotland and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The Crown and Police Scotland don’t want that.
To a layman it is almost like they are taking a “We’ve admitted it to him but are not telling you”, kind of position.
I find that just plain unacceptable and actually hope David Whitehouse wins.
Mr Whitehouse we are told is also cleverly threatening to push for a public enquiry.
I think there should be one.
In the meantime Gerry Moynihan, QC, for the Crown having denied everything vehemently but unsuccessfully with Mr Whitehouse before agreeing and paying the damages is now scrambling around, hoping it will all go away. He has 28 days to respond to Lord Tyre, the judge about why this information that Mr Whitehouse knows about should be kept secret.
Every lawyer in Scotland is watching and talking about it too.
While Mr Moynihan is doing that he has Mr Whitehouse’s legal costs to pay.
Again from our money.
Money that could be used for the good of the nation.
Peter Be the Change
Last week I asked Peter Lawwell as a Scottish football colossus to use his last few months to do two things for the common good of our game.
The first was to work with the other Premiership clubs and the SPFL to change the voting process that effectively means it only takes any two of our top level clubs to block any change.
Even when it is in the vast majority’s interest.
The second was to do what he can and knows how to do to open up the governance of the game both at the SPFL and the SFA too.
A kind of “Publish and Be Praised” mantra for all things football and an end to secrets and secrecy as a power inducing strategy.
Peter hasn’t responded but I know people who read this know him well.
Please feel free to tell him I would love the opportunity to speak.
It is very seldom that one man has the power to fashion real and fundamental change for the common good.
Peter has that gift for now.
He can help all fans and all clubs including his own.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.
The Voice of Independent Fans