Date: 6th August 2021
This Week’s Sting
1. Capacity Crowds Return
2. The Stooshie Brewing on the 6th Floor
3. A Financial Messi
4. Wembley Outfall
5. Uncommon, Unusual Sense Breaks Out in Japan
6. Charlie’s Days in Court
1. Normality Within Touching Distance
Today’s big news is that Glasgow City Council and Aberdeen City Council have sanctioned full houses this week for Rangers, Celtic’s and Aberdeen’s home European ties.
City Councils are involved because the Scottish Governments limit of 5,000 was only a starting point and local sign off is required for more. But once achieved then full houses are allowed going forward.
Other councils including Dundee are due to respond to parallel requests from other top clubs but no push back is expected so we’re on our way.
It’s been 17 long months but at last we can see the end of the tunnel.
2. Civil War Afoot?
All is seemingly not well in the SPFL boardroom and it’s not just about who you buy your second-hand cars from and logos.
Some think trouble has been brewing since the dark days of last summer, that Dundee vote, the embarrassing fall out and the unsuccessful call at the time by retiring SPFL board member Stewart Robertson for Neil Doncaster’s and Rod Mackenzie’s suspension/removal.
Stewart is now back on the SPFL board after a year off.
The ostensible reason behind the current wee disagreement concerns the new SPFL sponsor, cinch, a national second-hand car on line marketing group with growth aspirations.
It is a deal worth £1.6 M per annum over 5 years split between 42 clubs or if you prefer 8 weeks salary for Jack Grealish at Man City.
As part of their side of the deal clubs have to showcase the ‘cinch’ brand at their grounds, wear the logo on their shirts and other stuff I’m not aware of.
The current spat reared its head a couple of weeks ago and we talked about it last week.
This week it’s going into hyperdrive and we’ve seen a letter to all clubs from Murdoch MacLennan, Chairman, and another in response to that from board member Stewart Robertson.
Murdoch wants clubs to back him and the board and said, ‘The sponsorship is the biggest single deal in the 131-year history of the league and the board insist there is a clear breach in the fulfilment of obligations by clubs’
Rangers don’t agree and as all things legal the devil will be in the detail.
We now all know from many press briefings that Rangers don’t want to engage with Mr Doncaster’s deal or wear the cinch logo on their shirts because of their well-known and documented links with Douglas Park’s Motor Group.
Rangers said through the press that they have an existing exclusive contract with the Parks’ Group that under SPFL Rule 17 claim they are not obliged to comply in commercial activity ‘If to do so would result in a breach of a prior contractual obligation”.
They also say that the SPFL did not write to formally inform clubs before the deal was struck.
Informally Rangers say they had warned the SPFL over their concerns and that their concerns were ignored.
Recently re-elected SPFL Board Member, Robertson has since made 2 points in the press.
The first was, having been pre-warned by Rangers after initial discussions, did the SPFL inform ‘cinch’ that Rule 17 meant that it could not guarantee all the rights it was selling?
The second was a comment that the deal was not introduced by Neil Doncaster as reported by Chairman MacLennan but brokered by a non-football agency who would trouser £100K per annum for each of the 5 years of the deal. Mr Robertson stated this was £500k lost to the game, (or two and a half weeks money at Jack Grealish’s new wage rate).
Conflict, contractual or otherwise, is inevitable in any family of companies and that is why the SPFL have spent a small fortune on lawyers and legal advice over the years.
But all this is a nonsense, and this series of conflicts damages all future sponsorship revenues as well as the current ‘cinch’ deal.
Sort it out guys.
And While We’re Discussing Sponsorship Conflict
The recent Euros demonstrated that top, fearless, untouchable players will fight back against sugary water or beer company sponsorships.
I understand that they are saying ‘I don’t want my skills to be helping sell products I don’t think are wholesome or have a good provenance’ for my fans and followers.
And more power to them for waking up and smelling the coffee.
I think most fans agree with that.
Some months ago, I was a delegate at a conference discussing the carnage that the algorithm-driven gambling industry is causing both now and long into the future.
There are scary statistics coming our way of lifetime addiction, ruined lives and even suicides.
Real people hooked, addicted, and destroyed.
Youngsters most susceptible.
Gambling is all over our game especially our biggest clubs. The Gambling industry is cynically using football to recruit new users, some underage, and seeking and succeeding in changing habits for ever.
The industry has gone way beyond the occasional ‘fiver on a horse at the local bookie’ or Thursday night football pools, and moved to a very dark space of interactive and addictive tricks and interactions and un-winnable Casino type stuff.
They blitz their audience because it works statistically.
There is simply no excuse for our clubs damaging their own supporters through links with this virtually un-regulatable entity.
Cinch won’t destroy fans lives but dafabet, 32 Red and others will, and do.
I welcome Stewart’s current debate on the SPFL and how it sells itself.
I’d ask him to move it on to how it ensures that all conflict especially damaging conflict is minimised.
And at the same time how the SPFL becomes more open about all its dealings to its club members and especially to its base stakeholders, the fans.
I hope it then the SPFL Board moves on to discussing the damage some sponsorships impart to fans of all ages and from all clubs and looks to sort out some of the problems it has caused.
It would be interesting to know what the SPFL’s neighbours on the same floor of Hampden, but with a different postcode for some arcane reason, think?
But they are not for comment.
They’ve had a few internecines themselves over the years and a well-documented penchant for harvesting gambling pound notes too without thinking about the future consequences..
They as an organisation should be part of any discussions about moving forward and I still don’t really know why they and the SPFL are different entities.
Such is Scottish Football and answers on a postcard please.
3. This Week’s Crazy World of Football Finances
£100M for Grealish, but can he get by on just £200K per week from those nice Man C sheiks?
Kane quotes his ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and waits for Man C to move so he can start training again.
Not enough in the Barca coffers for Messi despite having agreed terms to stay and are Man C now in the frame?
And not to be outdone a £100M splash from the other Manchester side too, also foreign owned.
But away from these banner headlines we have: –
‘The collapsed market for well-remunerated but no longer loved household-names and the Implications for Brechin City Who have 6 Points from 2 Games’.
I can’t get my head around the spend on Jack but can only wish him well.
Kane will go for equally silly money.
And Messi will be the best, and best paid, free agent in the history of football with a choice of suitors, but his tale is indeed a strange one.
Lionel Messi is a one club man and had, or so he thought, agreed a continuation deal to stay at Barca.
But unbelievably that relied on Barca selling some of its high earners like Coutinho, Pjanic, Umtiti and others.
The stark fact that killed the agreement is there is no market for them not just because of the asking price but mainly their wage requirements.
So Messi is now free and Barca say publicly they can’t bend the rules because even with Snr Messi agreeing a 50% wage cut they say they are constrained by la Liga’s salary cap.
Barca have become a selling club.
I’ll say that again with emphasis.
Barca have become a selling club.
Don’t think however they have suddenly become poor with a reported current salary pot limited at 347M Euros.
Their current club indebtedness at 1,140M Euros is not going to magic away and ‘going concern’ and ‘fiduciary’ responsibility questions need to be asked.
Likewise, Man U have to move, and fast to balance their books after their own spree.
The Glazers like to make profit from their favourite cash cow to pay their expected and sizable dividends.
At Man U and elsewhere star names all over England and Champions-Leagueville are available and have to be sold – in theory at least.
But they all have contracts and clever agents advising every move.
Some well-informed football insighters think the market is broken and there will be repercussions right through the world game.
This week’s excellent Rory Smith’s New York Times article looks at English football from that perspective.
‘Players at clubs who used to be on the up but are now sitting on expensive contracts and to be blunt no longer wanted by their clubs are a huge problem.’
To further quote Rory, ‘England’s elite are able to buy but increasingly unable to sell’.
The problem is one of simple economics.
The Premier League and a few European super-clubs have long been able to offer more money than was available elsewhere.
Squads were built at the expense of other nations.
Big squads with household names no longer good enough to get a game every week.
Rory categorises them as ‘These unwanted reserves, aka overpaid castoffs are becoming too old, too expensive, too much risk and too little reward’.
Why now would these contracted players move on for substantially less?
When the `English Premier League sneezes Scottish Football catches a cold, even those up at Glebe Park sitting on a 100% record.’
But we’re too busy squabbling about cinch!
4. Uefa on the FA’s Case
After the social media-induced throng of 250,000 ‘fans’ around Wembley for the Euros cup final, the behaviour of many and the very real civil disobedience and threat to genuine and bona fide fans there was always going to be repercussions.
The FA almost instantly and quite sensibly commissioned an “independent review led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock to speak to all parties concerned, include external experts and to report on the facts and circumstances”.
Since then they have also been busy trying to buy-off disgruntled fans who had paid serious pound notes to be there with promises of free future tickets to things unspecified.
This week a Uefa statement came out to shake up the air of calm. ‘Following an investigation by a Uefa Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the English Football Association for a potential violation of Article 16(2) (h) for a lack of order or discipline by its supporters’.
The FA are said to be waiting to find out what punishment will be meted out and what this means for their desire to host the World Cup in 2030.
(This is the same Uefa who it is being reported today had multiple employees detained before Euro 2020 in a suspected case of corruption. Two were arrested, have now been reportedly sacked and also deemed as ‘junior’ employees so ‘Move along folks nothing to see here’ and no press releases either.
5. Sometimes Football Gets It Right
The Olympic Women’s football tournament has been great telly as long as you have had access to the Discovery sports channels.
(The BBC really let us down on this one when they sold their rights some time ago).
The final was due originally at 11am Tokyo time today.
I thought it was a strange time when I first saw it, like schools football of old when we had schools football.
The reason for a morning kick off seemingly was to make the match peak viewing in the USA with a 14-hour time difference between the eastern seaboard and the Japanese capital.
So 11am today in Tokyo was 9pm last night in New York and only 6pm in Los Angeles.
Anyway, two things happened ahead of today’s final.
The first was ‘The Stars and Stripes’, (what a lousy nickname for a ‘soccer’ team), were knocked out by their less fancied neighbours Canada.
The second was the temperature at 11 am was due to be 32C with high humidity.
Both finalists raised concerns and with the USA out of the picture and no spectators to relocate sense prevailed.
The game was moved to a cooler 9pm at night slot and to Yokohama some 35 miles south.
I’m watching it as I write on Eurosport channel 5 and it’s called Hockey on the schedule to confuse us all.
It has just moved into extra time with the score 1-1.
Now a shoot-out and after 6 penalties with two each scored sudden death.
Canada clinch it with the last kick of the tournament and they and their English coach, Bev Priestman, aged 35 from Consett are victorious.
A great game of football that deserved more interest from those who schedule our tv.
I could be cynical and say that the only reason the match was moved was because the USA lost interest. But the moot point is that football should respect its athletes in both the timing of games and the sponsorships they expect their skills to endorse.
6. Charlie’s ‘Proof Before Answer’
Tuesday August 10 is the date given for ‘Charles Green v The Chief Constable of Scotland.
It is all to do with the financial fall out of Rangers in 2012 and what has since been termed ‘malicious prosecution’ by Crown office Scotland and possibly Police Scotland who deny all accusations.
Some in the know reckon this and other strands of the same story will cost us, the taxpayers, over £100M.
Enough to have bought a certain Aston Villa midfielder and maybe to pay his £200K per week too!
It will all kick-off in Lord Tyre’s Court and if I read the notes correctly there are 8 days scheduled to deal with the complications and the ‘he said she said’ bits and bobs that trials or hearing bring.
For those of us who don’t know, and I didn’t, ‘a Proof Before Answer is a hearing on both factual and legal issues. It is appropriate where the court needs to hear the evidence that will be coming before addressing the legal issue’.
As always feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
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