Date: 11th December 2020
£57 Million For Scottish Sport
Plans for the latest and possibly final stage Scottish Government’s financial rescue package were revealed yesterday.
This tranche comes on the back of £16M for Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport, and local partners in April and £16M on similar terms in August.
Yesterday’s announcement was cross sports: –
£20 Million for low interest loans for Premier League clubs, and £10 Million grants for all other clubs in Scotland including non league and women’s football.
Scottish Rugby: £5M low interest loans and £10M grants
Horseracing: £2 Million grants
Ice Rinks: £2 Million grants
Motorsport: £400K grants
Basketball: £300K grants
Ice Hockey: £200K grants
Netball: £100K grants.
Oh to Have Been a Fly on the Wall on the 6th Floor
A wee birdie emailed me to tell me there was a socially distanced meeting at Hampden yesterday morning to discuss the Government plans for helping out football.
A mix of zooms and presents like we’re all getting used to and football people and outsiders too.
You know the kind of thing, another one of those Hampden meetings about important stuff where the games largest stakeholders, aka us fans, get no access to the agenda, don’t get told who was present, will never be updated on the discussions and where the action points are strictly P and C.
But fear not.
It is not a big ask to guess that the meeting was convened to introduce and share the Scottish Government’s outline plan ahead of it going live and to discuss how the SPFL and SFA would plan to implement the allocation of funding.
The SFA/SPFL/JRG were not in charge of the agenda.
They don’t like when that happens.
After the meeting a brief press release popped up on the Scottish Government site:
Ping (that was it popping up) – try for yourself.
Emergency funding for sport – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
It was a very basic and short, government-crafted, announcement and unusually for football had no pre-prepared quotes from Rod Petrie, Chair of the ultra secret JRG, nor from Neil Doncaster and Ian Maxwell, the SPFL and SFA Grand-Fromages.
The press release reads like those in charge of our game were recipients rather than co-authors.
“The funding allocations for the emergency sports fund have been calculated on the specific needs of each sport and the relative impact of the Covid pandemic”.
(I have no idea what this really means apart from knowing that whatever clubs manage to get from the grants and loans it will not be enough).
“We recognise the significant impact the absence of spectators has had and wanted to provide support for the Scottish Premiership but focused our resource funding towards the lower leagues where it will have the most transformative impact”.
(I totally understand that the government focus is on communities and football in communities but some of our Premier League clubs do wonderful community work so why should they be excluded from grants. This is a strange statement if you are chair at a team like Livvie or St Mirren.)
“We will work with the football authorities to clarify and agree the terms of the loans including which football association will receive money”.
(So is it now a competition between the SFA and SPFL to grab as much as possible from this fund for their own wee empire/side of the 6th floor at Hampden ?
Or do the Scottish Government maybe not understand why Scotland needs an SFA and an SPFL and wants to settle it with a wee fight.
Joe, most fans think we only need one organisation too and so did Henry Mcleish in his second report which is still somewhere in the “Famous Hampden Long Grass”.
Mr Petrie Replied
A short and sharp quote from the press today that shows the football authorities were not fully up to speed with the detail.
“We eagerly await details of the conditions attached”.
Mr Doncaster and Mr Maxwell have kept their counsel so far but there are reports of plans for the 42 SPFL clubs to meet next week to discuss the funding.
Reading Between the Lines
The Scottish Government’s words and plans are there to be read and interpreted.
But there is more unwritten than in their statement.
At face value Football is getting the most money across the three tranches and also as announced yesterday.
But as many in the game have already pointed out Rugby is getting £15M going to the community in the form of grants as opposed to Football’s £10 and with no, as yet, exceptions like the “no grants” available to SPFL Premier clubs.
I was keen to speak to someone who knows civil servant speak better than me and spoke at length to an ex minister on Skype last night.
Here is what I was told.
Ex Minister Advises it’s Time to Read Between the Lines
“Andy, that statement and the allocation of more to rugby says to anyone who wants to see it that the trust between the football authorities and the Scottish Government is at an all time low.
Scottish Football is still trying to run itself like it is a secret and privileged society.
To get in and hold power you have to be chairman of a club and the bigger the club the more you seek to influence and the more you feel justified in grabbing for your club.
The better deal rugby got yesterday tells you in simple numbers that the SFA and SPFL administrators are letting the game and you the fans down and are not getting the message across.
Their track record in dealing with the Scottish Government is not good.
Look how they disrespected the last (female) sports minister.
(I didn’t and still don’t know anything about that and didn’t ask but should have, sorry but we were on a roll)
“Deeply entrenched in their own wee world and probably hog-tied too, they show no willingness to open up and only ever go to the government when they need money, like now.
It’s no longer acceptable and frankly it never should have been.
Their 42 club meeting planned next week to divvy up the Government spoils will again be embarrassing.
The women’s game and the lower leagues should be there too.
The fact is Scottish Government money, government time, discussions and agreements should all be a matter of public record and that clashes with the way the JRG’s SFA’ and SPFL’s of the world want to operate.
Football and all sports in Scotland should be an open book.
But those running the game don’t and won’t listen and will continue to hide behind the dysfunctionality of the system.
But maybe it’s not a bad living if you can get it.
Scottish Football is not just failing the fans, the self-interest, winner takes all all culture is failing the clubs too. Even those that work it best and most fiercely support it.
The government are starting to get it.
Football fans are voters.
Voters have power.
What happened today says to me the government will now oversee that the grants will be channeled where they need to be and not just in the usual behind closed doors “wedding scramble” where the big boys and girls get all the silver by pushing the wee ones out of the way.
Andy, I especially welcome the specification of grass-roots support for non-leaguers and also women’s football, so well done Joe, we need football and all it does in our communities.
As for the £20M loans my instinct is that these are coming on the back of a grudge.
I wonder if the SFA or SPFL will have to underwrite them too?
They should have to because it is a loan not a grant.
That’s what I’d have asked for”.
We’ll talk again before this plays out that’s for sure but the one certainty is football governance in Scotland was in a mess long before Covid.
It won’t find an answer by itself either”.
Dave Cormack in the Meantime Has Not Been Amused
Ahead of the Hampden meeting and announcement yesterday the Aberdeen Chairman has been vociferous attacking what he perceives as the lack of dialogue between the Scottish Government and himself, Peter Lawwell and Stewart Robertson. (Scotland’s 3 biggest clubs)
“Why wouldn’t decision makers sit around a Zoom call with me, Peter and Stewart and ask us what would be a reasonable plan to bring fans back”
“I find it really disappointing that decision makers at ministerial level will not engage”.
“I find it incredible that they talk about sitting down with us and say their door is always open, that is unbelievable, they are not available”.
“Jason Leitch spends more time on BBC’s Off The Ball than speaking with SPFL clubs”.
To Read Between the Lines is easier Than to Follow the Text, Dave
A quote from Henry James sums up where I’m taking my response to Dave’s frustrations.
We have never met but let me say I have a lot of time for Dave.
A successful businessman who has put his money into his club and who now sees the unforeseen impact of Covid on his club and across the game as catastrophic.
It is already catastrophic and it will get worse so Dave is 100% correct and a visionary too.
But is he pointing his guns at the right targets?
Dave‘s Aberdeen and all other clubs are represented currently by three organisations, the SFA, SPFL and for now also the entity that is the JRG.
The heads of these organisations are Ian Maxwell, Neil Doncaster and Rod Petrie, also el presidente at SFA and chair of the JRG too.
It is a fact that all three organisations have been in close contact with civil servants and the government since pre 1st lockdown and daily since.
I also know that civil servants and the government were involved with both the SFA and the SPFL before the secret JRG was begat and all four entities were involved in how it operated and now operates.
The Minister has also been speaking outside these three organisations direct to clubs and fans and listening more than talking which isn’t a bad policy.
One particularly successful meeting I heard about was with the Northern Tier 1 clubs and was very enlightening, – even the absence of Inverness CT spoke volumes about how our unique Scottish summer SPFL pantomime had unfolded.
So Dave’s frustrations aimed at the government and professor Jason are maybe just a function of how Neil, Rod and Ian are representing him and his club.
Totally understandable and yes there is always fault on both fronts but we’d all benefit if Dave was aiming at Neil, Ian and Rod as custodians of the system.
A system that doesn’t work.
Bemoaning Jason for appearing on “Off the Ball” more often than speaking to individual clubs is off the mark too because Jason has a public figurehead role and that particular show delivers a hard to reach demographic. Well worth the ten minutes he spends most weeks.
We all want football back and mistakes are being made all the time top down and bottom up.
It remains a nonsense and there is no justification that I can go walking maskless in the park near my home and pass hundreds on the way there and have a maskless coffee in a small airless room with strangers before heading back but can’t watch football in front of hundreds of fans spaced out and masked in open air grounds.
It’s not logical. It’s not really scientific either. Jason knows that and so does Joe.
This is a strategic weak point for us to attack together in good spirit for the good of our game and to argue without playing games.
But whom do we send in on our behalf?
I can think of three who should have done this for us but don’t seem to have got the message across.
If Jason was a football guy he’d be our spokesperson and we’d already be back at games with a list of protocols.
We need our own Jason and Rod, Ian and Neil are letting us all down in their daily and weekly dealings that we don’t get to see any record of?
We’ll never know what they have done on behalf of Dave’s Aberdeen and all the other clubs because it’s all done in secret.
Football has had special treatment and at least one yellow card and some hushed up stuff so nothing is simple.
The reality is we are just not trusted to manage our own knitting.
And the recent briefing against the government wasn’t the smartest thing to do in such a wee country.
Dave You Can Help Us Get the Change Our Game Needs
Dave we want to work with you and need more chairmen like you on side.
I’m not sure we’ll agree on everything – like I don’t necessarily want the kind of change where Joe Fitzpatrick or the next minister after him picks up the phone to only speak to our three biggest clubs just because they are the biggest.
We don’t just want the biggest to be heard.
We do think football should be managed by one organisation.
Let’s just call it SFG (Scottish Football Group) for short combining all three of what we have for now but with big changes common good and openness at its heart.
So just one SFG seems sensible and will save money too.
Joe or his team should be kept close and in time respect those who run it and they way it is run and when insight is needed dialogue happens with the SFG and also with particular members like Dave is seeking.
Sounds like the kind of normal business that normal business people work in.
The kind of business we can work with all the Daves to make our sport better.
To be continued …..
Great results from Poland and the East end of Glasgow.
Rangers have been a revelation in clocking up a record points total and will not be relished by any club in the draw of 32 on Monday.
Celtic played well in beating a good French side.
Glasgow City have it all to play for trailing 2-1 with the home leg on Wednesday 16 Dec at 1850 on BBC Alba live and a real chance of making the group stages.
I’ll be watching.
Well done BBC Alba too for supporting football so well.
Qatar World Cup Draw
I turned on the telly thinking I’d be watching the draw.
The SKY Live Presentation that was scheduled was more Crossroads Motel in the 1960s with “Angus Lennie” on a phone call and shouting out what he was hearing to some lightly briefed SKY presenters in the studio.
They were in reality reacting to a SKY producer somewhere watching the draw on the FIFA website on their phone or maybe even hearing Angus Lennie in the foyer and then pretending they had a proper link.
Finally they spoke a lot in the studio about who was playing who and sometimes to reporters in the various home nations capitals. as they filled out their diagrams.
Anyway the draw is made, FIFA seemingly don’t use warm and cold balls like we do and there was no subsequent SFA style balls up or squiffy pop stars either but comedaic just the same.
Our draw according to Steve Clarke could have been worse but only group winners are sure to go through and the play offs will be tough.
Scotland are currently rated 48 and we have Denmark 12, Austria 23, Israel 87, Faroe Islands 107, and Moldova 177.
My bookie pal says we’re a long shot.
So was Faddys in France in 2007.
Great goal even if we didn’t qualify.
Starts late March 2021.
Get the Ball Rolling for Change
Thanks to those of you who joined us in the last week.
We need more members to shout collectively louder.
So look out for our wee film next week that says football won’t change without fans intervention.
Already Sir Keir Starmer and Joe Fitzpatrick have spoken with the SFSA, listened to us and know that fans have to be involved more in how football is run.
The SFSA are proudly and fiercely independent and a broad church representing all fans from all clubs and teams.
Membership is and always will be free.
We see common good as the antidote to the self-interest that dominates our game.
We want to work with the Dave Cormacks and Joe FitzPatricks of this world to bring that change about.
Please help our numbers to swell and become part of the change.
This week the Blog has been dominated by the Government’s financial package and what it really says to Neil, Ian and Rod.
It shows that our SFA/SPFL/JRG triumvirate and the way they conduct their business doesn’t find favour with the fans, leading chairmen or the government.
Fans in all walks of life think it is time for change guys.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.