Andy’s Sting In The Tale (10/12/21) “Football’s Housekeeping is Mince”

Date: 10th December 2021


 

 This Week’s Sting

  1. Busiest Post-Bag Ever
  2. Fan Power Prevails
  3. Jude Bellingham and a ‘Lover of Sheep’ Story
  4.  A Week is a Long Time in Football
  5. A Wee Hat Trick
  6. Eco-Sustainable Pyramids

 

1. Biggest Postbag Ever and 6000 More Kids

But so many unasked questions .

 And why no collaboration or transparency? 

First a thank you to those who wrote in.
I was blown away by the response to our “Free football for all kids’ call last week and also our plea and plan to prioritise and regenerate Schools football.

It is also clear that teachers played a huge role in making Scottish football what it was, when it was at its best.

Unsung and mostly unappreciated heroes.

See the source imageIt is a disgrace that nobody in power foresaw the danger or grasped this particular nettle at the time for football and the health of our kids.

Anyway, by coincidence earlier this week, there was a wee ‘good news’ story from the Scottish Youth Football Association in the BBC back pages.

It read like a ‘placed piece’ rather than real news and almost went unnoticed.

You can read the story here: Youth football: Record numbers now playing in Scotland, says governing body – BBC Sport

I think it deserved much more journalistic attention and also some real analysis and neither seems to have happened.
A pity because this discussion and debate is long overdue and is part of what we collectively need to do going forward.

Youth football is a foundation stone for the good of the kids, the game and the country.

And we know it is a subject that all fans want prioritised.

Day 1 - Summer Finals Kicks off with Girls Showing Off Their Football Skills - Norfolk School GamesIn the old self-interest model that still dominates all decision making in our game we all want our own club to have the best kids, boys and girls.
We want to see them play, develop and then for our club to take the commercial benefits downstream.

But not all clubs can have all the best kids all the time and the wastage and damage in this constant and dirty ‘build ’em up and drop ’em from a great height’ race is palpable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When pressed fans can and do see the bigger picture.
We see the criminal wastage of aspiration and talent.
We also feel the system of kids being hyped up and then dumped is good for neither the game nor the mental health of the kids and their supportive parents.

Too many kids get junked overnight, ambitions shredded and ruthlessly too.

But addressing that is all for another day and wasn’t what last week’s SYFA press release was about.

It was instead announcing the fact that Scotland now has 68,000 registered players up to the age of 21.

On the back of a successful men’s and women’s national teams and a long drawn-out pandemic, I don’t actually know if a 9% rise like that is good or bad.

But basking in the warm glow of success about the fact that we now have 6,000 more kids than the previous highest figure, in their 22-year history, the Scottish Youth Football Association came to the media.

I don’t know much about the SYFA.

I don’t know if being a ‘member’ is a legal requirement for clubs who play or just a ‘nice to do’.
My kids who played were never members.
My first club, Dalneigh Dynamos and the Inverness Street League they played in wouldn’t have been either.

Scottish Cup replays scrapped as SFA reveal key changes to 2020/2021 tournament - Daily RecordI do know the SYFA is an affiliate rather than part of the SFA and I don’t see any sense in that.
You are either in or out.

Anyway, Florence Witherow, their Chief Operations Officer announced their numbers and said on the press release that she is ‘very proud’ and thanked James Anderson and the Scottish Football Trust for the £300,000 gift  that was spent ‘to support our clubs through the Covid crisis and fully assist them with discounts on first aid and coach education’. (My emphasis not Florence’s because again I found this particular detail confusing).

 

I’m just a fan like you but this whole, staged action and kind of bizarre press release raised so many unanswered questions that I went back to my archives and found an open letter from March 2021, jointly to Florence’s Chairman and Ian Maxwell of the SFA.

It came from the vibrant and well run Giffnock Soccer Centre currently with circa 1200 kids.

Basically they wanted their national organisation (SYFA) to lead more to do more and to be more.
A ‘moreish’ request you might say.

And to help, the SYFA, they outlined how.

They and other clubs want the SYFA to upgrade its activities and to be more influential on behalf of all the member organisations and clubs currently members and for those yet to join.

The open letter was to John MacCrimond Chair at SYFA and copied in Ian Maxwell of the SFA to give it gravitas.

Giffnock asked for 7 things.

See the source image– A clear action plan out of the pandemic.
– Plans for summer football for all kids.
– A future framework uniting all Scotland’s 32 local authorities in a collaboration for kids football.
– Specific post-pandemic plans to ‘reach out’ to youngsters further socially isolated especially those who   may have dropped out.
– Support for the financial challenges and future uncertainties at grass roots clubs.
– A request  for the SYFA to significantly use and benefit from increased membership involvement and to seriously elevate the grass roots voice  collaboratively across all aspects of the game.
– And finally a request to meet and discuss and agree a plan for improvement.

All sensible requests.
All good for the kids.
All good for the clubs.
None of it self-interest.
All good for the game.
All doable.

See the source imageI’ve been told there was an initial meeting.
I’ve also been told it was just lip service and no real action followed.

So looking back was there ever any subsequent action and a real plan put it place?

No.

Why not?

That is a good question for all of Scottish football to consider.

 

 

And isn’t it time for joined-up thinking on all kids football, elite and non-elite and long term commitment? 

 (A rhetorical question where the only answer is yes.)

 

2. The Politics of a Wee Monday Night Panic

See the source imageLast week Rangers had been allocated a couple of thousand seats for their final group game away to Lyon.

The tickets were sold and that was that till the French started playing silly-buggers and announced on Monday night that the offer of tickets was rescinded, and some kind of Franco travel ban implemented.
That was seen as an unacceptable restriction and an emergency legal proceeding was filed by FSE, Football Supporters Europe, with the French Administrative Supreme Court.
We supported them and immediately lobbied Westminster and Holyrood for urgent action.

 

The French backed down.
The fans were allowed.
And one win and one draw this week did our coefficient no harm.

 

3. The Old Highland Joke about ‘Once a lover of Sheep, always a Lover of Sheep

See the source image

OK maybe not those actual words but I’m sure you know what I’m saying.

Anyway after a controversial 3-2 defeat last week against Bayern, Borrussia Dortmund’s young England star was unhappy with some ‘honest mistake’ type decisions and in a post-match interview questioned why the ref, Felix Zwayer, was chosen .
Felix had been involved as a junior party, and fined and disciplined for helping with ‘match fixing’ in 2005.

See the source image

(I have no personal view about the rights and wrongs but it is the kind of open secret that everyone remembers forever).

Jude said in his defence that he was only saying what everyone thought and was fined 40,000 Euros for the privilege.

Lothar Matteus said ‘I wonder how an 18 year old English footballer even knows that story”.

 

 

4. A Very Long Time in Football

See the source imageTime for another knock, knock, joke, about Jack Ross this time.
He of the contract extension not so long ago.

His fans sang ‘Sacked in the morning’ at the defeat by Livvy and he was duly despatched next day.

‘On top of the world’ after the semi and now ‘oot on his erse’, as some say down that side of Embra.

The timing is confusing with just over a week till the final and there are safe hands aplenty looking for their next berth.

I have a feeling that Ron Gordon already knows what he plans to do and moves are well underway.

 

5. Three Quickies (and why Arsene Wenger is now looking for something new to keep himself busy)

 

See the source imageUefa, it seems, have said ‘The Biennial World Cup is no longer on the agenda and we will focus on new priorities’.
This is despite all Arsene’s work for Fifa ,where we were told just a short while ago that it was only Europe who did not support this amazing Infantino-created vision and opportunity.
No quote this time though from normally very free with quotes, Infantino.

The ESL (European Super League) is also dead as far as Uefa are concerned.
But not according to Real, Barca and Juventus.
They are still barking up the wrong (ESL) tree and should be buying into the EPL even though there is currently no access point.
Again no Infantino quote.

Rory Smith, the excellent weekly column writer for the New York Times agrees with us in his piece today, and thinks the English Premier League is now so far ahead of all other leagues financially that its domination will just grow and grow.
He is right.

And finally, an interesting side-show is this weekend’s vote in Spain for La Liga’s mad quest to sell their family silver to CVC, the US money men, who are buying into future media events so that they can then sell-on and make a profit on the value.

La Liga’s clubs are due to vote on the 2 Billion Euros planned investment into the league called ‘La Liga Impulso Project’.

 

It is messy.
it will go legal.
And all it will do is bale out past wrongs and debts rather than create a vibrant La Liga that can compete with the EPL.

6. Our ‘Housekeeping’ is Mince

See the source imageWe started at the grass roots and will end there too.

And I hope it gets you thinking.
First of all none of us think of the actual grass roots when looking at a manicured Hampden now that it is no longer an over-worn second division club’s cabbage patch.

Or again none of us wonder why or how the actual roots that make the ‘Valley of Sin’ so fast and lethal on the 18th at St Andrews became a reality.

That is because they are looked after, are invested in and seen as important parts of an integrated eco-structure that has to be looked after and kept in balance.
Football isn’t good at that even though it needs eco-balance just as much.

Henry Winter, the chief football writer on Murdoch’s Times came out with a great statement/headline this week.
‘Cash is there to pay back the pyramid’ 

He was talking about the EPL and the government backed plans to get an ombudsman and some financial sense and integrated unity into English Football.
His argument is basically that football has more than enough money to be totally sustainable and should be.
It is the way that revenues are spent that causes the deep and very worrying instability.

This is not an English problem.

The pressure to spend on the team on the park trumps every other decision in Scotland and elsewhere too.

It shouldn’t.

Football continually makes self-interested and short-term decisions because that is how it is judged.

See the source imageBarcelona are 7th in their league, out of the Champions League and 1 Billion plus Euros in debt.

They, and others like them, have had more than enough income over the years to have copper-bottomed everything about the club but have chosen to literally play the ‘big and macho man’ and over-inflate their squad and the wages paid.
They are not alone.

North of Hadrian’s wall we face the same issues writ a tad smaller.

Whether it’s the pressure to win mostly meaningless silverware or just trying to survive in 10 or 12 club leagues of madness, all that happens is that revenues are ‘invested’ in the wrong things.

Mostly spent on wages and agents fees.
Buying and paying players who are not always needed rather than being really invested into the infrastructure that will allow our game to flourish.

After Cop 26 we need to think sustainability and more than that we need to embrace it.

Our House Keeping is indeed mince.

The fact that we are not alone is no consolation.

Clubs need help.

 

 

Finally, as always, feedback and opinions welcome.

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.


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