Date: 8th January 2021
I hope you like the new self-help mantra that Heather from Inverness sent me last week telling me she loves The Sting and asking us to keep up the good work.
I usually hate all the self-help stuff but this one is up there with some of the Connollyisms that have got me through life.
I promise I’ll write a blog called “Windswept and Interesting” or get a big black greyhound dug called Bob and other stuff he has given me into something soon.
Anyway 2021 has come in cold and bringing more of the same that 2020 left us with.
Talk of further government restrictions and no likelihood of fans anywhere till probably at least the end of this fanless season.
I hate saying it but it maybe even later, as the virus mutates masterfully.
Nobody knows, not the scientists, not Jason, not The Donald over the pond, not even Boris.
Are we in good shape for the future?
Have the SFA and The SPFL and their wee sneaky joint venture to get round the club vote thingy, the JRG, come up with a long-term vision, strategy and plan for our game, top to bottom male, female, kids and community?
Don’t be naïve Andy.
Scottish Football has no windswept and interesting post-Covid plan apart from reverting to where we were before.
No surprises there but it leads us to Scottish football’s stark choices.
Brave or Grave New World?
In the last few weeks we’ve seen a briefed fall out or two in the media mostly in the back pages between the JRG posing as the game and the government. Primary school stuff that we’ve seen before.
Much more importantly we’ve witnessed what informed insiders perceive to be a fundamental lack of trust between those who run our game and want it all kept behind closed doors with no public records and the Scottish Government who don’t and can’t work that way.
Not when public money is being asked for from taxpayers and then dispensed SFA/SPFL style.
There is no doubt that some of our bigger clubs have been damaged financially by this unnecessary spat, especially those top league clubs who are highly active in their communities.
Outside of all the virtual closed room meetings we all talk and “Andy there is a real wind of the need for change blowing outside the 6th floor of Hampden” is one insight from my discussions and “At least 10 Premiership club’s feel let down and half a million worse off” was another.
Nicola is on Our Case
She asked for an enquiry into the Celtic trip to Dubai and the SFA said “Move along there is nothing to see there, hen”. or words to that effect in their press release.
Not smart in a lockdown.
There is a real chance that the untested levels of football and other sports might fall victim to increased controls and while the government want ‘elite” sport to continue for bunch of social and societal reasons I’ve been told she is fed up with the constant machinations that dealing with football brings her and her team.
Some Good News with Just 161 Days Till Wembalee
The Euros will almost certainly happen because of the TV revenues and the next world cup but the question that won’t go away is will there be fans present?
Our three Euro matches are scheduled for Hampden at 2pm on Monday June 14 vs. Czech Republic, at Wembley 8 pm Friday June 18 vs. England and Hampden 8pm again vs. Croatia on June 22.
Not sure where our early plane home will fly to this time.
But maybe, just maybe, just maybe Stevie?
We now have 3 approved vaccines after today and more in the pipeline and that brings some optimism but nothing is for certain as this Covid devil moves quicker than Jinky ever did.
And answering Peter from Brechin, I don’t know if fanless Euros will deliver a shortfall to our expected SFA windfall of £10ish millions of which £3M-ish is a players pot.
Probably and not good news.
Testing Times for Our Community Premiership Clubs
Last week Gordon Blackstock of the Sunday Mail got in touch about a nice piece he was writing about the scary protocol-agreed costs of regularly testing all our Premiership players for Covid.
Seemingly the original test that was approved by the secretive JRG to allow the season to kick off is now way more expensive than other options.
Testing as mandated has a negative financial impact of circa £400K per annum to each club.
This seemingly could now be reduced significantly but nothing is being done.
These are the same clubs that also missed out on at least £500K in the SFA bludgeon style divvy-up of the government and National Lottery £11.35 Million because the government wanted the money to get to the communities not the cash eating clubs some of whom are still spending like money was no issue. The JRG are said by insiders to have failed abysmally to make the case for all their clubs. I’d guess that means all those outside our top two.
Anyway Ian, Rod and Neil here is a wee idea Gordon and I came up with to help the top league.
Step 1 Ask the clubs if they would like the testing paid for them by the SPFL SFA or both, maybe even have a wee vote.
Step 2 Borrow the total at current low almost zero interest rates and pay the clubs the money.
Step 3 Take a very small, almost unnoticeable percentage each year of future Premiership media or sponsorship payments until the testing bill is paid back.
No extra club debt and full testing for as long as required to keep the tv revenues rolling.
There, sorted that for you all, for the game by the game for the game.
Let me start by saying that I have no issue and indeed intimate personal knowledge of most vices including gambling.
It doesn’t control my life and I can easily watch a football game without any wager although I find horse racing dull without a wee interest.
The SFSA have worked with Gamble Aware for a few years because we agree with what they are trying to do and as part of our agreement this year undertook some research for them.
Thanks to all of you who helped out too.
78% of us think there is too much gambling sponsorship in our game.
54% have understood the “Avoid bet regret “ message we have sent you for a long time.
52% are concerned that gambling is too prominent in all aspects of our game.
(Full results are on our web site).
We sent out our research findings to some folk in the media and we were invited and then featured today on BBC Scotland along with the amazing Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk who’s personally been to hell and back with his own gambling.
Ahead of the broadcast I did some research on gambling and football.
Here are a few snippets that will make you think.
Between 71% and 89% of all screen shots on BBC Match of the Day match footage contains gambling advertising. (Advertising is not allowed on BBC by the way)
Scotland has 45,000 gambling addicts and 160,000 of us are classed as “at risk” (take out under 18s and that is over 3% or 1 in 30 Scottish adults)
Gambling causes 500 suicides in the UK each year so 1 a week in Scotland pro rata.
Quite simply football is normalising gambling and while most of us are unaffected some fans can’t cope with the resultant pressures.
I don’t approve of football being used like that and neither do most of us.
Meanwhile Down In Engerland
Most of us watch English football and just like up here gambling advertising and promotion is everywhere there too as existing bookies evolve and new entrants come in and fight and spend big budgets in football.
Stuff like – Who will score next?
Who will get the next corner?
Have a free spin during half time.
Half of the premier clubs and 17 out of 24 Sky BET Championship clubs have betting on their shirts.
Richard Masters heads the Premier League and acutely aware of the issues financial and the responsibilities heading his way said recently “Gambling requires stronger governance particularly to protect the vulnerable”.
Gambling is not devolved unfortunately and the gambling act of 2005 is currently being reviewed by Westminster.
Feel free to Google it and make comments – you have till March 31st and it is your right if you have views.
The gambling industry knows it is in the spotlight the same way tobacco and alcohol did and favours self-regulation but that may not be enough.
Up Here in the Frozen North it’s Platitudes Time, Again, Surprise, Surprise
Earlier in the year when Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde asked about gambling in Scottish football and got nowhere apart from a prepared press release and again this week when Auntie Beeb invited the SPFL to be on the lunchtime show today with me, the SPFL got their PR agency to draft almost the same platitudinal response they had for Ronnie.
Here is some of it.
“Since the introduction of the Football Pools betting has closely been associated with our game and provides much needed income. For many fans having a bet is part of their enjoyment of the sport. The SPFL continue to engage with Gamble Aware and supports responsible gambling”.
The difference between north and south of the border’s attitude is palpable.
Neil, Instant betting 2021 style is addictive in a way the Football Pools could never be and never were.
The SPFL attempting to compare the modern gambling epidemic by reminiscing about the football pools of the past where you picked the games across the leagues, guessed multiple results and paid the wee man 25P on a Thursday night when he collected your coupon is highly misleading.
Pool coupons were not in the same league as the addictive instant win challenges thrown at you on your phone and interactively while watching a game.
So far apart the expensive press release Neil is worthless and worse than that this kind of response questions everything you ever release to us the stakeholders.
Also here is some advice Neil.
Football in Scotland should not be hiding behind fans capacity to say no to betting as an excuse to continue to allow damaging gambling ingress into all things football.
It should never ride roughshod over the rights of those who are vulnerable and need help.
And our research shows most of us want to see a change.
We can do better
Football has a responsibility to clean up its act for all us who enjoy a flutter.
We need to consider those who are susceptible and all under 18s who have plenty of time to find out about the world of chance and opinion that many of us find enjoyable.
The SFA Divvy Up Disgrace
For those who didn’t see my Xmas sting this is how the SFA split the money they were allocated by the Scottish government.
Rod’s Divvy-Up Plan for the Taxpayers Pound Notes
Total allocations per Sector
League 1. £1.5M
League 2. £1M
Tier 5. £1.1M
Tier 6. £0.65M
Tier 7. £0.950M
North Caledonian League. £24K
Scottish FA. £0.750M
Scottish Amateur FA. £100K
Scottish Junior FA. £12.75K
Scottish Welfare FA. £12.75K
Scottish Women’s FA. £20K
Scottish Youth FA. £35K
Para ANA. £12.75K
We asked these questions too and will share any answers with you all.
Who did the sums?
What is the SFA money for?
This has dominated my mailbox and yesterday I had a conversation with a Partick fan this week about part time Alloa FC.
Alloa a league higher are getting more than 3 times what the Jags and other full time teams are getting.
None of it makes sense.
Some clubs seem to be getting a windfall from a fund that was meant to be for survival and others not getting nearly enough.
This story is growing legs and deservedly so.
I hope it all heads for an enquiry one day.
Not your finest hour Rod and Ian.
SFA Axe All Our Futures
We knew it was coming.
The SFA announced this week the strategic National Performance Directors role is now toast just two months after Malky “resigned”.
A new Chief Football Officer position has been created and filled by Andy Gould ex head of football development.
He will be tasked with replacing Shelley Kerr (also recently “resigned”).
Does anyone else remember this particular SFA statement I found from when the job was created,
“This is the most important role I believe ever in Scottish Football in terms of football and producing players”.
Back in the olden days, 2011, that was the corporate line as the SFA were acting positively on one of the various self help reports they have since mostly ignored and buried in the now crowded Hampden long grass.
Obviously they decided going the extra mile for the future of our game was all bollocks.
Now next to fall will be the elite academies.
They have all just seen their budgets butchered and the myopia behind all of it is scary.
I’ll look up some statements about the importance of elite academies too but we can already guess some of the hyperbole we were fed back in the day.
Scottish Cup Update
We spoke last week about the Whitehill vs Hill of Beath ineligible player situation and rules that had been seemingly ignored.
Whitehill had got a woolly explanation about a technical decision and a week on are still none the wiser as to why they were not awarded the tie as others had in the past.
The Haws have already played the next round and lost to Keith.
Keith now play Clyde on Tuesday.
Where does that leave Whitehill?
Grumpy and out of the cup I’d say and with no influence at Hampden.
Shush. Its a Secret Process, but We’ll Spin a Press Release and Tell You Why We Were Right All Along
Tuesday sees Killie and St Mirren appeal against points deductions for Covid issues that were and are not unique to them.
We’ll never know anything other than the outcome.
They came to the wrong decision last time and will probably do the same again.
You wonder how our joyous “Yes sir I can Boogie” player dance and party didn’t get a wee secret meeting too or the Scottish youngsters on recent SFA International Duty who came back and had to isolate.
And last weeks discussion about how some clubs seem to have a wee secret immunity pass certainly hit the target with many of you.
Only the clubs together can fix this ongoing systemic nonsense!
Andy’s Big Prize
Can anyone tell me where the temperature in centigrade, according to the BBC, over the next 7 days will be 23, 25, 24, 24, 24, 25, and 25 with wall-to-wall sunshine.
Don’t look at the photo.
A clue is it caused a stooshie in a demitasse earlier in the week but maybe its becoming more.
Definitely more this is maybe indeed be a proverbial straw.
I’ve been told Nicola wasn’t impressed with the trip to begin with and then certainly unimpressed with the out of touch response from the SFA that just made things worse.
We’re used to that kind of attempt at closure from them but she isn’t.
In fact Whitehill should recruit her and so should Killie and St Mirren.
This is a building story and not just about a wee trip.
Its about how a game thinks it can run itself.
If you still have’t worked out the destination a wee clue would be that one club certainly went the extra mile last Monday but with a warm winter climate found their destination was crowded with photographers.
Football is an easy target and should be setting the standards.
A final clue is the indoor scene below at the local Kempinski Hotel which has an indoor ski slope.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.