Date: 12th August 2022
In a few short weeks we’ll know…
We’ll know who has won the current, ugly and increasingly vicious blue, end-of-pier, beauty parade.
Maybe too they will ask the basic question why energy rises in the UK are much bigger than in other countries?
Maybe our energy model was always broken?
I’ve been shouting it at the telly but so far it’s not working.
Maybe I’m wrong and there will be a plan?
We have rampant inflation, energy costs soaring enough to be off Keith Jackson’s infamous radar, and a guaranteed negative financial impact on club’s costs and fan’s spending power.
There is no comfort in the current UK energy policy coming good or Westminster getting it right soon.
Until now Westminster was (and still is) glad to see the French government-owned energy co, EDF work with the Chinese China General Nuclear and others to build and own new stations at Hinkley Point in Somerset, Bradwell B in Essex, and Sizewell C in Suffolk.
Our government’s predilection for short-termism and lack of strategy will mean years of big bills and despite the world factors the biggest blame lies a tad nearer home.
Imagine being an Orcadian and seeing your ‘cheap’ wind-power heading south and then paying a gas-based energy premium to heat your homes with your own, now much more expensive electricity, that is, if you can afford it.
We’ve been talking about this for a long time and now Martin Lewis has stepped in and given it the gravitas of being an economic pandemic with impacts as big as Covid.
Luckily football has well and truly broken out and well done Rangers, just one more tie to negotiate.
Dundee Utd however equalled the record of the worst ever Scottish club defeats in Europe joining Celtic and Hibs.
Soon forgotten but Motherwell and Utd suggest we’re not as good as we want to be.
But we all knew that deep down, and have for years.
Our top league doesn’t work.
Meanwhile the only story in town isn’t directly about football but it will affect all aspects and all fans.
In a few short weeks we’ll know ….. that fan’s discretionary spend is being diverted to heating and eating with football a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity.
Welcome to This Week’s Sting
1. We Are All in it Together
And it doesn’t matter whose idea it is
With the coming financial storm, football clubs as businesses need to realise that they need to work harder to keep fan levels healthy.
And good ideas that work for 1 club can be adapted to work for other clubs and fan bases.
There will never be a one size fits all but good ideas should be shared and adapted on a local basis.
Here is one idea that comes from Bristol but would work for the vast majority of our SPFL clubs.
Bristol City have just had their largest opening crowd for 44 years with 24,543 in Ashton gate (capacity 27,000).
The reason was they came up with a simple idea and worked with local media.
The idea was a ‘Mates-Rates’ offer where season ticket holders could take 2 pals for half price tickets at £12.50.
The offer was popular in the local media, there was a big atmosphere and the club lost on the day 3-2 to Sunderland but won big time.
Clubs don’t have to reinvent wheels.
Just look around, see what is working elsewhere and tailor good ideas to their own locale.
And football is not alone in the coming storm.
Pressure on discretionary spend will affect newspaper sales, coffee shops, pubs, transport, clothing, and shoe purchases, Pay Per View subscriptions, leisure activities like swimming, gym memberships, haircuts, chocolates and sweets, fast food, bakeries, shopping, books and magazines, technology and more, much more.
Football needs to find a way to work harder with its local community because everyone will need help and working together is a good idea too.
2. The Scores on the Doors Say it All
14-0, 9-0, 7-0, 3-1, 3-1 and 2-1.
Sounds like a few mismatches off the AZ Alkmaar vs United scale, and not a good basis for a season’s entertainment in a sector with a wide open door for growth.
I’m talking about the start of the SWPL under the new auspices of the SPFL and with an expanded league up by 2 to 12.
It doesn’t matter who hit the daft totals but, no surprise, the high scorers are all from the biggest women’s clubs in Glasgow.
Reading the Runes
There is no doubt that women’s football in Scotland has moved on a lot and is on an unstoppable surge.
We are also witnessing a ruthless upward movement from some and realignment.
That means many stalwart, founder ladies clubs, like Forfar Farmington have been left behind the same way as the men’s game dropped Vale of Leven and Bonhill in the 19th century.
And after the success of the Lionesses, Scottish women’s football is pushing at an open door if it links with health and wellness and forges new partnerships with the Scottish government.
But the silence about doing this is deafening maybe because all the focus seems to be at the very top.
I understand why but can see the bigger picture.
Here are things fans would like to see.
i) Don’t leave the wee clubs behind, and that means there has to be income streams and publicity for more than the big 3.
ii) Ensure football is a deal done for all girls, (and boys) in all Scottish primary schools as part of a football and Scot Govt wellness initiative.
iii) Concentrate on grass roots and from thence the elite pathways instead of starting at elite kids because there is no magic ‘elite’ girls source.
iv) Don’t burn the kids who don’t make it, like happens in the youth’s game.
v) Women’s football is different, keep it that way.
Family friendly, wholesome sponsors and things like positive fan chanting, respect for refs with the cancer of dissent never allowed to flourish or even take hold.
vi) Grow the game in a way that suits the whole game not just the three big clubs who are already in a different atmosphere and focussed on Europe.
(If the game has strong regional and national grass roots it will, in time become a conveyor belt of talent for the top clubs anyway like in Iceland and Norway)
vii) Over-invest locally because the downstream returns are potentially huge.
3. Are the Easter Road Chips Really That Bad?
After a rousing derby and a 94th minute equaliser Easter Road went mad.
A derby game where a lighter was thrown and hit Alex Cochrane because he was near enough and then a poke of Easter Road chips too.
Add that to the pitch invasion.
SFSA believe all games should be suitable for family audiences.
This one fell short.
Ben Kensall, Hibs CEO said “We can’t condone it”, then hid behind some words like passion and other nonsensical excuses, finishing by saying “I believe Easter Road is a safe environment”.
Unless you are Alex Cochrane, Ben.
Robbie Neilson called it better.
“It’s almost impossible for stewards to cover 500 fans. The answer has to come from the clubs and the SFA.
I’d go further up the tree to Uefa and look for a plan for such obvious fan insurgencies.
Something international that starts as big fines and progresses to things that would hurt clubs like empty stands and points deductions.
In plain black and white without fear or favour and for every club.
Meanwhile Hibs will get a wee fine, half of which is suspended, unless they are bad again soon, and the world will carry on.
Football is a family game and ALL football matches should be suitable for ALL the family.
Was the Edinburgh derby?
4. Qatar has Friends in High Places
This week sees the 100 days till the world cup kicks off.
As of now the countdown starts on Saturday but Qatar now want to move it a day forward to today, Friday.
The proposal is to move their game against Ecuador from third game up on the 21st November to the only game on November 20th.
You can imagine yourself how they finagled consent but Ecuador FA, and all 5 continental presidents are said to be in favour.
The PR quote said, “Any impact to fans is sufficiently outweighed by the values and benefits of the proposal”.
So now you know.
Where I am sitting – it is money talking again and another dirty deal done somewhere in Fifa.
The moral trickle that will become a torrent
Many football people and others know choosing Qatar as a venue was corrupt and just plain wrong.
Both Fifa and the Qatar rulers fear criticism by players during the competition playing out on a world stage and damaging the Sportswashing powers that Infantino is trying to deliver his friends there.
This week German world cup winning captain, Philipp Lahm, who is no lightweight and also happens to be Tournament Director for the Euros in Germany 2024, spoke out.
“Human rights should play the biggest role in the awarding of any tournament. If a country awarded the contract is one of the worst performers in this regard you start to think about and question the decision”.
5. A Wholesome Sponsorship with some big BUTs
I missed the press releases when M & S Food came aboard with a joint Scottish Men’s and Women’s Teams sponsorship.
I don’t know much more about it yet but welcome this type of link as the right way forward.
But, and there is always a but.
I was in an M&S Food store today and noticed and picked up a ‘Team Scotland Recipes’, 8 page leaflet.
The slogan, I like, ‘Eat Well Play Well’, although it feels a bit like a quasi-lift from the Spartans, ‘Live together. Play together. Win together.
Anyway, the leaflet features all you need to do for Abi Harrison’s chicken fajitas, Lyndon Dykes pork souvlaki, John McGinn’s fish and chips and Lee Gibson’s Thai fishcakes.
I’ve worked in the marketing of food and fish most of my career and can say that, targeting, simplicity and ease of ingredients is key.
Sadly this fails on all three.
Abi’s Fajitas need 13 different ingredients and some skill.
Lyndon’s Souvlaki needs 8 ingredients and again a dollop of skill.
John’s fish and chips needs 6 ingredients and wants the chips to be sweet potatoes, not tatties.
Finally Lee’s Thai fishcakes need 11 ingredients and competence.
Worse than that they want the protein base to be cod and Honduran king prawns rather that something more appropriate and with less air miles like Scottish salmon or trout which M&S sell and which works wonderfully in Thai fish cakes.
Healthy Eating is part of the future
A great potential sponsor too but the SFA have let M&S home economists rule the roost with home counties style recipes rather than putting their foot down and asking for simple, cost effective, level 1 meals with no more than 4 ingredients that most Scots families will already have in their cupboards.
Easy to make, level 1, value meals , that would have been my starting point and mandate.
Oh, and there is also a competition that is overcomplicated for school kids because they need a Sparks card.
So one out of ten for this one.
What a waste of an opportunity.
6. Bums on Seats
If you want to watch Scotland play Wales at Murrayfield next year from a posh seat with free drink and food from the SRU’s Thistle Suite it will cost you £898.80 per bum.
Makes Club Hampden bums for the Irish game at £349 look a bargain.
7. Avoiding Disciplinary Action
It has always been said the Polis look after their own and avoid bad publicity.
DCI Jim Robertson was promoted not long after his role in the various, now questionable, sometimes musical, interrogations of individuals after the Duff and Phelps liquidation of Rangers in the chaos after 2012.
His investigation was said to be disastrous and our public purse is already £100M plus down on what it might have been as a result of his and others endeavours.
Jim has now been reported as applying for early retirement. Maybe because he is tired but also maybe to evade undergoing disciplinary action, protect his enhanced pension and avoid any unsavoury possible findings.
All decent Rangers, all Scottish fans all and tax payers deserve a proper investigation into just what happened to Rangers, before, during and after the sale for £1 and collapse. And why it will cost us all well over £100 Million pound notes.
I’m not holding my breath, the public enquiry if/when it comes will be the usual farce where he who pays the piper calls the tune.
The whole thing is such a complex web that it will not be easy and made worse because many in and out of the game don’t want the real truths and the lies to ever come out.
8. What is the Difference Between Ukraine and Palestine and is Taiwan a Province of China?
The World Cup Team in Qatar this week listed Israel as “Palestine Territory, Occupied”.
The same site in June had listed Taiwan as “A Province of China”.
Protest o’clock happened and Qatar soon took the listings down.
Raises a couple of questions.
If/when China invades Taiwan, will world football, (Fifa, Uefa) have the cojones to ban them like they did to Russia?
And why did they, Uefa, ever relocate and include Israel into Europe while also ignoring to this day their ongoing land grabs into Palestine?
Fair questions indeed that will not go away but don’t seem to get asked enough.
Finally, as always, hope you enjoyed a look at some honest opinions and some of the stuff that you don’t find in the red tops.
Feedback and opinions are always welcome.
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