Chairman’s blog: 10/7/20

Date: 10th July 2020

The latest chairman’s blog from Andrew Smith:

Dundee Utd, Raith, Cove, Hearts, Thistle, Stranraer and the fans



(You probably won’t read it like this in the mainstream press.)


The much discussed but highly secret arbitration process we talked about last week looks to be starting next week.

I have no idea what’s been going on in the secretive world of the SFA Arbitration process.


I am certain that we all wish the three anonymous, arbitrating, judge/jurymen the Wisdom of Solomon.


They have been given a hospital pass from a dysfunctional establishment at war with its people.


With football yet to break out by August, sans-fans, looking more and more likely, indeed almost certain, our civil war is still the talk of the football steamie.


Here’s a snippet from a championship club chairman and pal, from an animated three-way conversation this morning,

“Andy it’s a right bloody mess and its going to get worse and you can quote me on that on your blog”.


So there you have it from an insider.


“It’s going to get worse”.


He said more too.

“This is not club versus club or fan versus fan like some would have you think.

It’s a totally unnecessary, unwanted and increasingly expensive mayhem.

It’s been 4 months of predictable chaos that’s probably been coming for years”.


Then a particular insight from him and his other chairmen,

“We’re probably all partially at fault and definitely all fed up with it. More and more of us think we should start again because where we’re heading there will be no winners”.


Other stuff was said too, off the record, some too colourful for here. Its fair to say the clubs don’t feel happy with where they and the good ship SPFL has collectively grounded itself, asleep on the watch and unprepared for the Covid nuclear winter.


One particular niggle is that the SPFL is now actively “encouraging” other clubs to step up and pay to help just one side of the Arbitration fight, the Dundee Utd, Raith and Cove union.

This is seen as aggressive, wooden, clumsy, biased and has not been well received.
They, the SPFL, don’t seem to get it that the fault is not in the current civil war opponents but in the self-induced causes of the divide that is tearing our game apart.


Mike, one of our Dundee United fan members, wrote to me following last week’s blog when I attempted to outline and simplify the very secret procedure.

Mike had just heard his club asking for financial help and summed up his views on the nightmare his club are living through.

“We are not a big club any more. We don’t have the money or resource to fully protect our interests hence our clumsy begging bowl. Embarrassing but the SPFL have been unhelpful to say the least.

Ask them why they are not supporting their own clubs?

It’s their mess and we’re just the guys in the firing line trying to protect our promotion. Why is it costing us? We’re innocent of everything apart from winning the league.

Andy despite what the papers say and stealing Robbie, Ann Budge is not the enemy. It’s not Arabs against Jambos either its the SPFL. They couldn’t organise a “something” in a brewery”!


Three Helpful Reminders for Neil Doncaster (and Ian Maxwell)

  1. Fans want bigger leagues

No more needs to be said.
All the research from the real stakeholders – the fans, tells you that fans want change.

Neil, you are capable of working out a way of getting your 4 Celtic v Rangers games from a permanently bigger league to keep the all important SKY contract happy.


  1. Its Never Too Late to Make the Right Decisions

A bigger league is a clue. Consider a fan convention to talk it through starting from now.
It’s also time to agree on the current structure under which our game is managed. It has long been broken and is now holed below the water line.

  1. Secrecy is a cancer

And it’s right through our game.

Whenever there is any kind of issue in our game the SFA, the SPFL and even some of the clubs close ranks and hide behind secrecy or if you prefer lack of transparency.

Here is a relevant snippet from a piece I was asked to write last week for another web site.

“Being positive I can see the advantages of the arbitration process coming to a conclusion quicker and less costly to our game than going to the courts but something about the whole thing is wrong.

My instinct says it’s the secrecy.

Most of the people I have spoken with agree.

We all live in Scotland where our government is open to the public and where government committees are on the public record.
The fourth estate is all over everything they do.
Likewise our courts are generally open to the public and to the media to report on what is happening within.

There is nothing in this or any dispute that should be kept secret from the real stakeholders in the game, the fans.

We all have a stake in the game.

There is nothing healthy about this closed doors charade.

It should all be out in the open.
Any judgement made without the presence and scrutiny of the media is open to retrospective revisitation ad infinitum and will never bring the fairness and closure we all need.
It is not in any way the formula for the reconciliation that is needed across all 42 clubs.

Football fans don’t always have to agree but we need to know that it is refereed fairly. The Arbitration rules laugh at that basic requirement.


Will Peace Break Out?


Our Wisdom of Solomon is that the imminent arbitration process remit should be enhanced and funded by the SPFL.

It could and should be about how we run our game not just about bringing  resolution to one particular series of screw-ups. (Fits right into Helpful Truism number 2 above)


So no peace before next week but finally a follow up as promised to last weeks update on our broken pyramid discussion with SFA Head Ian Maxwell.


Pyramid Groundhog Day, Week 3


I had originally written that following conversations and requests from SFSA members about how the pyramid was summarily dismissed by the SPFL board I had sent an email to Ian Maxwell, CEO at the SFA.

I simply asked what The SFA had done to fight the corner of his two members Brora and Kelty with the SPFL.

Both they, all the clubs in their systems and all their fans were badly served when the SPFL board decided not to honour their contracted agreement for play- offs from the feeder leagues.
Well I’m glad to tell you Ian found the time to send us a nice email

Here is some of what he said.

“As you are aware, the impact of Covid led to a number of decisions across Scottish football having to be made. The rights and wrongs of those will always be up for debate.

Please be assured that the Scottish FA are fully committed to the pyramid and held a very worthwhile meeting today with Lowland League, Highland League and SPFL representatives.

A number of topics were discussed to ensure we learn from the wide-ranging challenges of the 2019/20 season and are better prepared going forward.

I’m sure you and your members will agree that getting football at all levels back as soon as possible is the priority at this stage and that is very much our aim”.

I wrote back what I hope was an equally nice email, thanked Ian but also asked if he could find the time to answer our original question which is relevant not just to Brora and Kelty. Indeed the SPFL decision to ignore the pyramid affects all Highland and Lowland League clubs and their feeder leagues too.

Even deeper than that it drills down to the ethics and spirit of the game and how the pre-agreed rules and regulations are lived by.


Here is a small part of what I wrote when thanking Ian for his reply.


“I know how busy you are and appreciate the response.

I would however like an answer to the question I asked”.


what have the SFA done on behalf of Brora, Kelty and the fact that the pyramid has been dropped for season 2019 – 2020?


“That’s what I’d like to share with our members”.


I finished by saying something that dominates our inboxes.


“Scottish football derives no benefit from the inherent secrecy that allows both rights and wrongs to fester”.

And finally,

“Most fans think what happened to the pyramid was myopic, unnecessary and brutal”.


I’ll let you all know how this ethical and practical debate progresses.

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