Date: 8th October 2021
This Week’s Sting
1. Ave ad Edinburgum Lacedaemoniorum
That is latin for ‘Well done Spartans’.
Last Saturday the Edinburgh team did something that made me feel proud to be an ex player.
One single action that was incredibly naïve in a cynical football world where winning is everything and cheating for personal and club advantage is deemed normal behaviour.
The Edinburgh Lowland League side were playing at Gretna’s Raydale Park and at 26 minutes the score was 0-0.
A Spartans shot at goal had missed bouncing back into play off the wheel on the mobile goalpost base.
Spartans forward Blair Henderson pounced on the rebound and did the business.
Spartans were ahead.
The ref hadn’t seen the ball bounce back and thought it had hit the post staying in play.
The Gretna bench had seen it though and went mental but to no avail.
The goal stood.
Gretna 0 Spartans 1.
Dougie Samuel, long time Spartans Manager and his pitchside team watched footage of the incident to ascertain what happened and 5 minutes later took a decision.
They told their team not to contest a Gretna corner kick.
Gretna equalised, (even I would have scored), and it was 1-1 at half time.
A small action that gives you faith that football can have a conscience in the way that Pele once gently passed a wrongly-awarded penalty to the grateful goalie, like Robbie Fowler tried to undo a penalty award against Arsenal in London, or Morten Wieghorst deliberately missing a penalty against Iran in 2003.
It’s welcome but as rare as golden eggs from a goose.
Spartans eventually ran out 4-1 winners and deservedly were rightly praised.
‘Absolutly Outstanding’ and ‘Class Acts’ were two of the comments I read on Twitter.
📽 And now… time to wheel out the goal footage from Gretna.
— The Spartans FC (@spartansfc) October 3, 2021
If you are in the Edinburgh area tomorrow, Ainslie Park hosts a cracking match between Spartans and Lowland League leaders, Bonnyrigg, with a 2 pm kick off.
2. My Referee Pal’s Take on VARious things
I was in the company of an old student pal and ex ref on Wednesday just after hearing on the radio that Hibs appeal for the Ryan Porteous tackle had been rejected.
I only saw the incident on a phone and felt that Ryan could have been given the benefit of the doubt, had got the ball, and that when I played, that type of tackle would have been ok. (And it would have been).
I got told in simple terms why it was a red card and, in my pal in black’s opinion, the appeal was a waste of everybody’s time.
Fair enough and then I said why was that level of openness and insight he had just given me was not shared by the appeals panel, not just on this occasion but every time there is a controversial incident.
I said something like a simple review/summary of the film, the report, the appeal, and the findings would add transparency to a system that doesn’t need to be clandestine.
To my surprise he said he thought referees would be in favour of that.
So, there is one good idea that needs a fair bit of work and upkeep but will be good for our game and the people in it.
Here is another.
It is the correct use of technology to check on key decisions and happenings during football.
We know it as VAR and while it is not yet a feature of the SPL it is in use for internationals and European competitions in Scotland.
We are late adopters of the technology and some fans in recent SFSA surveys feel we are better off without it, for ever.
I can understand that there are frustrations in how it can be stop-start and slow the game down and how some of the offsides in particular have looked ridiculous. But fundamentally I believe that we should all strive to get decisions right and if technology can help then we should embrace it.
Anyway, I’m writing about VAR because today the top clubs are meeting to discuss whether to implement it or not, possibly as early as next year.
In a world where TMO now plays a key role in rugby and Hawk-Eye has for over 15 years in tennis football has been late to the techno-party.
(Another Fifa/Uefa squabble didn’t help)
And there have been teething problems in our nearest neighbour, and elsewhere, that highlight a need to tidy up some of the laws especially around offside.
But challenges like that can only be good for the game.
It all comes down I guess to a simple question.Do we want refs to make the correct decisions and to support them in so doing?
I heard on the radio this morning that Scotland has only 3 trained VAR refs and will soon be underrepresented in international games.
And basically as a nation we are one of the few outside the VAR tent looking in.
The pro arguments for VAR are that it is here to stay and a part of world football and its future because it can quickly review and support, or if necessary change key decisions.
The negative arguments include that it comes at a cost and can take time.
Anyway, the vote today I have been told is in favour at the top so with the way our voting structure works VAR is heading our way.
3. Long Ignored ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ is Losing Our Game Millions
So where does HERGAMETOO fit in to that sub headline?
In our last major research a few years back, we identified that only 8% of the SPFL’s matchday audience are women.
A huge underperformance with impact on club revenues and other streams.
Well done to the 8% though it has not been easy for them.
They have to be brave to support their clubs.
And they are not just good for our game now but for the future.
Picture a vision of football in the future when 50% of fans at men’s and women’s matches are male and 50% female.
Think of the enlarged supporter universe and the increased revenue potential.
Now consider the problems that are stopping this happen right now at games up and down the land.
Here are some real quotes to consider aimed recently at female fans at grounds in the UK.
‘You know nothing about football, you’re a woman’.‘You can’t comment, it’s a man’s game’.‘You don’t know football, you’re just a stupid bint.
‘You only go to football for male attention’.
‘Do you even know the offside rule?‘Fancy a shag if ??? scores?’‘Women’s opinion on football = invalid’.
‘Get back to the kitchen’.
‘Women don’t belong in football’.
‘Why don’t you just make me a sandwich’.
We have been working with HERGAMETOO for some months and are currently undertaking some research that we will share with all the football authorities.
We want as many responses as possible.
The BBC’s excellent Phil Goodlad picked up on it earlier this week and interviewed Eve Ralph, co-founder of HerGameToo:
She highlighted the research, and we got some good support but the more traction this gets the better we can make the resultant dialogue.
So, 2 things here.
1 Please get any girls or women to complete the survey.
2 Please ask them to join the SFSA too.
We are free to join.
Membership will always be free.
We are proudly the voice of the fans, independent and represent the under-represented in football.
Women have been at the head of that particular queue for too long and with us they have a voice.
4. Would You Buy a Used Club for £300M?
‘And Would You Tell Us Why?’
Amanda Stavely ‘done good’ this week.
Yesterday she finally delivered the Saudi Investment Fund (PIF) and £300M to buy out Mike Ashley and free the Toon from his tyranny.
Stavely becomes rich with her quoted 10% fee and the PIF which is valued at £700Billion gets a new asset that will never make them any money.
Why buy assets that will never be profitable businesses?
And why buy a foreign, currently failing, underinvested club screaming for upgrading and more spend throughout?
All beyond my paygrade.
But the club will not be allowed to fail, and this is just the start of a new European and world superclub.
The richest club in the world.
Why Newcastle? and other questions like that will be asked but for now the reality is the fans are jubilant in an ‘anyone but Ashley’ kind of way.
He’ll be happy at having turned an open sore into a profit too.
After this sale failed last year assurances have since been made to anyone who will listen that it is for the good of the world.
And the deal has gone through.
The now very rich Amanda has also decreed to some cynical journos that ‘This is not simply sportswashing’
By that she means cleaning up the reputation of new Owner in chief, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, allegedly involved in the demise of the journalist James Kashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
And other stuff that happens in Saudi and the Yemen and wherever.
And, and, and.
5. Bans and Txtlines Won’t Work Without Education, Rules and Clear Speaking
This week there is some real progress on eradicating racism from within.
In reality it is only baby steps, and there is much to do but it marks a change in policy.
David McCardle, Inclusion and Diversity Officer at the SFA briefed the media on work being undertaken with the 42 SPFL clubs.
It is about a vision of a brave new Scottish football world where players can be banned for up to a year if found guilty of racist or other ‘discriminatory behaviour’.
At the same time fans will be given a ‘txt’ number to report racist, or other ‘discriminatory behaviour ‘around them.
(It didn’t say what discriminatory behaviour actually was or is, nor would happen after they have texted).
For the press briefing David said his hope is, “One incident is too many’.
He said this knowing that the reality is his hope has already been challenged and surpassed by multiple incidents in Scottish football this season.
We at the SFSA support any move to banish all forms of racist behaviour.
We also hope there is real commitment here by the SFA, SPFL and all the clubs.
But the rules must be defined and clear, agreed by all clubs and communicated to fans.
And, full commitment all round is a prerequisite because the old adage is true.
‘When you go swimming you can’t get half wet’!
6. Duff and Phelps Found Guilty of ‘A Breach of Duty’
D&P were the preferred personal choice of administrators by Craig Whyte when he initially started the admin process.
A wee clue is they might just have been his people.
This week wasn’t about them getting more money from us in the ongoing compensation claims that we’ve discussed many times and are still going through the courts.
No, this week was about us getting money back from the corporate animal D&P.
In a court action this week Lord Tyre decreed that D&P must pay £3.4 million to BDO who are still, some 9 years later, handling the liquidation of Rangers and after the fees due to BDO there isn’t nearly enough to go round.
For this action BDO had petitioned the judge for £47M which they felt was the amount that taxpayers and the other creditors had wrongly lost out on.
Back in 2012 Charles Green somehow negotiated and agreed to pay just £5.5M for the assets he bought, including Ibrox, Murray Park, the players etc.
These assets it is being said now had a ‘fair value’ of £27.2M.
Quite a difference between value and price.
And in some eyes a £21.7M ‘gift’ to the lucky purchaser, Mr Green.
In real terms according to one of Scotland’s leading lawyers it was ‘a bloody fire sale that didn’t ever need to be a bloody fire sale.’
It is also reported that D&P did not act to protect the interests of the 276 creditors of the club including all taxpayers like you and me.
For instance, there was no slashing of costs, there were no ‘sales of assets’ or redundancies unlike in normal football administrations and indeed almost ‘an Adam Smith ‘Hidden hand’ keeping everything intact’.
Like it was all ‘a planned and pre-agreed exercise’.
The reasons for Lord Tyre massively reducing BDO’s claim for £47M to £3.4M were he placed ‘factorials’ on the individual elements of the claim.
For instance he only thought there was a 10% chance of selling Ibrox back then and a 50% chance of selling Murray Park back then etc. etc.
These personal ‘insights’ lowered BDO’s claims for recompense.
I hope that BDO have grounds for appeal and do so because it is our money and Lord Tyre has effectively let us all down.
7. Hampden Sell-Out and the Tough Road Ahead
It will be great to see Scotland playing at a full Hampden tomorrow against a very good and underrated, in the world rankings country, Israel.
The match is sadly once again on Sky because Nationwide don’t sponsor us the way they sponsor the English team.
(Maybe we’ve never asked them).
Anyway, according to some analysts at Gracenote, part of the Nielsen Organisation who work globally for most big companies and who specialise in and sell in-depth insight into sports data, we now have a 13% chance of making it to Qatar.
So for now, in old money, that gives us about a 1-in-8 chance of sunshine for the tartan army next winter.
Before we won in Vienna a few weeks ago, we were real rabbits with only a 1 in 24 chance.
So, being positive, we’re heading in the right direction.
The reason for these long odds is what lies ahead.
Each of the 10 runners-up are facing veritable ‘groups of death’.
They will be joined by the two best ‘Nations League’ section winners who haven’t qualified (Austria will be one).
6 teams will be seeded (we might not be) and drawn into, 4 country play off, mini groups for a one-legged semi and finals format 0n 24-25 March and 28 – 29 March 2020.
So, the current forecast by Nielsen is we have a 61% chance of coming second in our group and then facing serious opposition because there will be no mugs in the play offs.
Good luck Stevie.
You really do have the power to inspire the nation.
7. (The Referee’s a) Woman
Ukrainian Kateryna, a non male official, will take charge of the Andorra vs England mens match tomorrow backed by fellow countrywomen, Maryna Striletska and Svitlana Grushko.
The VAR is Stephanie Frappart from France.
their names are a clue that none of then are male.
The saddest thing is that this is even something to highlight.
As always stay safe and feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
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