Date: 5th August 2022
In London the Lionesses write an open letter to Liz and Rishi about girl’s sport and football in English schools, looking to spread and enhance the grass roots feeder systems supporting everything else in the game.
In Glasgow SFA and SWPL announce a new Women’s Cup competition for existing teams and players ahead of our Leagues starting this weekend.
After last Sunday and with all the goodwill in the air it will never be easier to promote and get sign up for girls and kids football and kids sport in general.
In the warm afterglow there is a real opportunity to push for change and to work with the Scottish Government to set a new girls and kids football and sports landscape.
It wasn’t just the fact that England had just won the EUROs.
It was the way they did it, and it didn’t start a week ago, or with just a new ‘Elite’ plan or competition.
Fair play to the vision and commitment that took them from second-besters to their new 4th world ranking with a nice trophy on the shelf.
The Lionesses themselves deserve their nickname too.
A tight squad of team-mates, well integrated, working hard together, keeping the faith, and supporting each other selflessly.
Fierce when needed and always hunting in a pack.
More like a club side with no prima donnas.
They broke through the barrier up here big time and I’ve never seen so many Scots openly supporting any English national side.
Their development and success has offered us so many learnings.
It started with well documented investment in grass roots and an elite system out-with but sometimes parallel to their men’s game.
The culmination is the genuine national feel-good and a spiky, open-letter to the next PM to be aware of a key fact that needs to change if progress is to continue:
“Only 63% of girls can play football in PE lessons. We are inspiring young girls to play football only for many to go to school and not being able to play. We all experienced this growing up and were often stopped from playing. So, we made our own teams, travelled across the country and despite the odds just kept playing football. We need you to invest and support female PE teachers who are key role models.
This is an opportunity to make a huge difference and impact on millions of young girl’s lives.
They deserve to play football in PE lessons. They deserve to play football at lunchtime and deserve to believe they can one day play for England”.
Wonderful, just wonderful, and timely.
Our politicians in Westminster and Holyrood will all have read the letter and have seen what is happening.
It is a wide open door guys.
I fully expected something similar from those who run our women’s game.
There was a press release from Hampden.
In it the SFA announced that there would be new Scottish Women’s cup where the semis and final would be at Hampden.
Here are some quotes written and attributed to three of the inner circle of our women’s game.
First Ian Maxwell, SFA CEO.
The power of football has no border, and we will be inspired by the achievements of the Lionesses, just as many girls and women in Scotland will have been inspired by the players on show. I know this will refocus the efforts of Pedro Martinez Losa (note the manager, receiving a wee kick) to qualify for next year’s world cup.
The creation of a new national cup is a significant step.
I would like to thank SWF for their drive in helping raise the standards of girls and women’s football and to working with the SWF and the SWPL”.
(Scottish Women’s Football, Scottish Women’s Professional League).
Then Fiona McIntyre, SWPL M.D.
“Tomorrow we formally launch the new SWFL with a new brand identity and vision ahead of the kick off this weekend.
It is important we commit to bold new competitions that reflect the progress and ambitions for women’s football”.
Finally Vivienne MacLaren, SWF Chair (and seen by some as a recent loser in the fight for running the future leagues. A fight never in the open and held in closed rooms between the SWF, SPFL, and clubs).
What Vivienne says almost sounds valedictorian.
“We all want the same thing – the progression of women’s football in Scotland.
There have been some really positive steps taken across the game and it is important we capitalise on the collective enthusiasm and momentum.
We have played our part and will continue to do so in partnership with the SFA, SWPL and anyone who has the best interests of the sport”.
All in all, an under-impressive attempt by three leading lights to say something when actually there is no cunning plan and almost nothing to say.
Did any of them talk about the specific learnings from England that can feed the pyramid of players that in time feeds the current elite programme?
Did anyone see a role for kids playing football at schools like the Lionesses are Roaring about?
Here’s a reason why it should.
A secondary school in the west got the bug when Scotland Women made it to the last world cup. Dozens started playing. Now as the girls enter 6th year just one is left. The others all dropped by a system who never valued them in the first place.
Let’s talk about that and other thing’s in Sting.
Maybe we have lost the confidence to look forward and to adopt and adapt learnings from elsewhere.
Indeed maybe our game has learning difficulties caused and further exacerbated by financial short-termism and self-interest.
Are we taking learning seriously enough to identify the things we should do and then working together to deliver them?
This Week’s Sting
1. Why are Ray, Leo, Ari, Gordon, Bertie, and Yoda in Andy’s Blog This Week
Learning doesn’t just happen; it is an attitude about life and a lifelong skill when learned.
Most organisations find it hard to manage the process and are bad at it.
Here is some wisdom from just seven insighters across the centuries because this is not a new problem.
One quote from each can help our game to see things differently – if they want to change.
Gordon Smith (Pictured Right), another one, was not just my brother but a wonderful teaching professor at Plymouth Uni.
He was a late developer academically (AKA lazy but mostly disinterested and unengaged).
But he could spot that in kids like him right from day 1.
He had taken a different route, thought better, hesitated, turned and tuned in to his strengths.
And in time he turned many others round too.
One of his personal pearls of wisdom was, “First you have to learn why you want to learn. Then how to learn, then learn how to change. None of these are easy till they’re easy and afterwards change and learning will become a constant”.
I’d say he was bang on about what is needed for our girl’s (and men’s) game.
Ray Langdon said, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first’.
It sounds contradictory but isn’t. Nobody gets it right first time and you learn as you go.
Aristotle also chipped-in by email with, “For the things we have to learn how to do before we do them, we learn by doing them”.
You have to make decisions and jump in.
Leo Da Vinci said, “Learning never exhausts the mind” quite the opposite.
And according to wee Bertie Einstein, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but a lifelong attempt to acquire it”.
Scottish Women’s Football Needs a Learning Culture
For that we need leaders who can learn from what we do well and badly.
What is happening all around them like in England is low hanging fruit but not one size fits all.
We need a plan based on learnings from elsewhere and built on our strengths.
It has to be deliverable.
It has to have support from outside football.
Moving forward it has to evolve quickly constantly resetting and moving forward.
It should be dominated by the common good of girl’s sport with our population but there have to be natural but flexible interfaces with what we call elite sport.
Not the wild west that is current boys youth elite sport with all the greed, broken aspirations and mental health time-bombs.
I’d have said we need a strategy created for football by football working with the Scottish government and others.
It is a forever task because each year new kids will come through and the game will change too and while it would be nice to get it right first time we need a culture where we simply review and move on.
Those off the pace ‘Press-Release-O’clock’ statements from the 6th floor have already confirmed we are off the pace with our plans for a grass roots overhaul and reset.
Another top-end competition is fine but our game and our future needs more than a ‘new brand identity’.
We need leadership, a plan, constant monitoring, and reaction to realities and road bumps.
Mistakes will be made and are welcome and better that inherent moribundity.
I’ll now leave the final word to Yoda because where we move should all be in good faith and it will be a rocky road.
“The Greatest Teacher, failure is”.
But you have to be able to recognise failure starts from within and learn how to change or underperformance locks in.
2. Our CEO is Fisticuffing for You
We all know the energy price impact will hurt every fan and knock some out of the football revenue circle.
If you have a season ticket and it’s paid up, well done.
Many of us will have monthly or quarterly payments and they will have to be reconsidered against mundane things like eating and staying warm.
Away fans too will consider their options.
Cost of travel, parking, food en route etc.
A day trip for a group of 4 from Aberdeen to St Mirren starts with a £26 ticket, then petrol costs say £25 per head, food and drink at say £30 and that is not many pints or anything from Gordon Ramsey.
I’d say £80 plus per head or a week’s warmth at home in the new reality coming.
It is a stark choice.
Stuart has been in touch with Hampden and they are aware of the tsunami heading our way.
Maybe together we can do something positive.
Here are some of the current away fan prices just to give this all a perspective.
St Mirren v Aberdeen, £26.
Motherwell v St Johnstone, £25.
Rangers v Killie £31.
County v Celtic £28
Hibs v Hearts £33
I’d go further and prefer
“Twenty’s Plenty and enjoy a free pie”
Give fans more.
Clubs need to start seeing walk-ups and away fans as a bonus that is no longer guaranteed but there to be fought for.
This story is only just starting and will run and run.
One good Thing about Covid was home and away matches on your telly in lockdown.
Some Season ticket fans had free access to their clubs tv network and it was included some others had a PPV basis.
According to Neil Doncaster the reason this has been stopped is a Uefa directive, I think it is article 48.
It’s time this was changed, Neil because of the financial and environmental costs of away support.
It’s time to get cleverer and get Uefa to get real.
3. Que Farsa en Barca?
After season upon season of financial madness but a lot of success, Barcelona had a $700M plus financial black hole, and a year ago after additional losses of $496M it was even unable to meet its enormous payroll.
Its CEO described as technically bankrupt but missed out the Catalan adverb for very, ‘molt’.
“Barca Molt fallida”
(Barcelona is very bankrupt).
With their enormous turnover and fan base it was widely thought they would cut costs, regroup, focus on youngsters, and build their way back, step at a time.
But that is not the way of Barca’s returning Presidente, Joan Laporta.
“Un home in mission”, in local dialect. (A man on a mission)
He has decided Barca will “spend their way out of debt,” and they are going for it big time.
Joan said, “I’m not a gambler – I just take calculated risks,”
(A strategy that is known as ‘gambling’ in any language or business school. He is gambling the future of Barca!)
His reasoning in public is “Barcelona’s 400 million fans require a level of success and that makes a patient, painstaking rebuild impossible”.
But it is also about ego, mostly his, and he is rallying the fans Trump style to support his plans.
Laporta has been, to be fair, heavily criticised in some quarters as ‘arquitecte’ behind the club’s current $1.3 billion debt.
Yes, they played wonderful football and won trophies but Messi alone was taking $132M plus per annum.
In his return Joan has done three things.
Firstly the club is trying to cut operational costs from its current book, – things like wages and contractual agreements with current fringe players.
The unwanted contract holders though are all well advised.
For instance, current, but no longer wanted, squad player, Danish international Martin Braithwaite, has been told he will get no game time but he has 2 years left on his contract and is sitting tight till Barca honour his contract.
To make it almost funny Barca have been on a bizarre signing spree of new talent.
$150M on Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphina, none cheap, plus others.
And with a full squad of already registered players, they can’t even register or play their expensive newbies till they get rid of their now unwanted pile who all want their money.
Secondly Laporta is spending $1.5Billion upgrading Camp Nou using Goldman Sachs to facilitate the funds so there will be big fees and serious interest rates downstream biting into revenues.
Finally they are also copying Leeds United disastrous move and selling future income streams and this alone has raised $700M so far.
(25% of the club’s domestic TV rights, 25% of the Barca studios, and Spotify on the Camp Nou and Jerseys)
Laporta is popular because fans think the club will start to win again.
That is all most fans want – until it is too late then they all get 20-20 hindsight and say loudly they told Laporta so, and it was all his fault.
We saw that all closer to home ten years ago.
Utter madness from my point of view in a world where national wealth funds can trump any local gamblers like Joan and make the future very tricky indeed for an iconic club, any iconic club.
I hope all the unwanted players get their full payouts but am sad that such a free spirit of a region has become a rich man and his mob’s Red Ferrari.
One of our members sent me this.
“The events at Barca contain everything wrong in European men’s football.
By that I mean the sheer arrogance of the big teams, and the humungous differences between them and their recent domestic equals especially the regional sides in smaller less-international cities.
When will fans stop paying to see the same clubs win their leagues every year and then play at competing with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other ‘green-washing’ clubs in the so-called Champions League.
4. The Same Job but Your Pay Depends on Your Nationality
It is normal in Qatar for a wage structure for the same job to be based on nationality rather than the job or basic competence.
It shouldn’t be.
This week Human rights group, Equidem found this was going on at the England’s hotel, the Souk Al Wakra.
How about, nationality based wage discrimination, challenges obtaining NOCs (No objection certificates) for contract workers, recruitment fees charged to contract workers, illegal wage deductions below minimal wage and exposure to Covid 19 because of practices.
Yes all of them.
But never mind.
Fifa are on the case and ‘Sir Humphrey’ obviously wrote their press release.
‘We are carrying out our own due diligence on human rights and will be having separate conversations with hotel management and staff at England’s hotel to ensure we understand the steps they have taken to meet their legal obligations and to meet the required standards on worker’s rights”.
5. Immutable Lessons from the Euros
No Gambling Sponsors, No toxic chants, Mixed fans, Cheaper tickets, Warm, More kids and families.
Football can become family entertainment.
6. The Location, Location, Location, Location, Location, Quiz
AKA where the profit from any bets you make end up
Scotland have 4 clubs where even suicide statistics didn’t make them think twice about having gambling companies on their shirts.
But where do you think the profits end up and does the UK get corporation tax?
Daftiebet, (Celtic) are HQ’d in Makati in the Philippines.
32/Uglibet (Rangers) profits are British in origin, but tax haven-ed into Gibraltar.
Quinie Bet (D. Utd) are owned out of Kilmore Co Cavan.
Telephone Biting and Telegram Biting, Falkirk are owned by Regency Betting out of Grangemouth.
Finally an insight into how the gambling industry gets what it wants.
1xBet are a Russian on – line specialist.
Surprise, surprise, they moved their ‘Operation” to Cyprus and via franchise ‘partners’ are operating in more than 20 other countries.
They want football money and are all over it like a demob suit.
They are already the global partner of Barca who need money from anywhere, the ‘official bookie for Italy’s Serie A, a sponsor of the 2021 Africa cup of nations and now the ‘regional sponsor’ of PSG in Africa and Asia for the next three seasons, whatever that actually means.
This deal is not without controversy because after a Sunday Times investigation they were kicked out of the UK and cannot operate legally in France.
Football really needs to divest itself of all links with this kind of Fan-Killer Crap
7. Good luck to Rangers at Ibrox on Tuesday against the surprisingly good Union Saint-Gilloise.
What a ridiculous penalty last week but 2-0 on the night was actually a bit of an escape.
And Dundee Utd will not find it easy in Holland but I remember the Camp Nou.
I’ve said it before and will say it again there should be no preliminaries just qualifiers and either knock out or leagues.
Uefa need to garner some imagination and should read Sting, Section 1 on ‘Thinking’!
Finally, as always, hope you enjoyed a look at some honest opinions and some of the stuff that you don’t find in the red tops.
Feedback and opinions are always welcome.
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